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Belle Plaine volleyball coach Cassie Wolpern, shown here during a practice in 2011, is hoping to get back to the state tournament after she competed in three of them as a player. File photo: Richard Sennott/Star Tribune. Richard.Sennott@startribune.com

Cassie Wolpern has her sights set on another state tournament trip.

During her playing days, Wolpern helped Belle Plaine reach the Class 2A volleyball state tournament in 1999, 2000 and 2001). She would now like to do likewise as a coach.

In her third year at the helm, Wolpern has her squad ranked fifth in the state. The Tigers entered the final week of the regular season with an overall record of 17-4.

"Volleyball is a game of momentum," Wolpern said. "As a player sometimes that is hard to comprehend, often feeling defeated or, on the contrary, too confident. As a coach, momentum is both threatening and encouraging, and the team needs to be reminded that a consistent high level of play will win the game of momentum."

The road through the section will be more than formidable. The Tigers' most recent setback was a five-game nail-biter, with four decided by two points -- to Minnesota River Conference rival LeSueur-Henderson. The scores of the match were 23-25, 25-20, 25-23, 23-25, 15-17.

LeSueur-Henderson is rated sixth, and in the same section as Belle Plaine. Each of five other schools in the section -- Blue Earth Area, Glencoe-Silver Lake, Mound-Westonka, Tri-City United and Waterville-Elysian-Morristown -- could enter section play with 20 victories.

"Historically, at least in the past 10 years, I think we could make a good argument that it's the toughest section to come out of in Class 2A," Wolpern said. "This year, it is indeed again difficult."

Wolpern graduated in 2003 as the state's most prolific hitter with 2,867 career kills. She also held single-season state records for service aces (80), blocks (99), assists (390) and kills (688).

Long time coming

Prior Lake's girls' tennis team earned its first state tournament berth since 1991, shutting out Rosemount 7-0 in the Class 2A, Section 3 finals. The Lakers are 17-1 on the season.

"We came into the match with a lot of determination after last year," Lakers coach Kris Schneider said. Her squad was the top section seed then, but lost to Rosemount 4-3 in the finals.

The Lakers' top two singles players are freshman Chloe Hall (11-3) and eighth grader Savanna Crowell (15-0). Their top doubles team is the Petersen sisters: Savanna, the only senior on the team, and Grayce, a freshman. They are 15-1.

"We've been pretty dominant most of the year," Schneider said. "We're looking forward to the state tournament."

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