This is a heavyweight match in the ultracompetitive Class 2A, Section 5, which includes three teams ranked in the top 10 of the coaches' poll released on Sept. 5.
Watertown-Mayer, which was undefeated in 12 matches during the abbreviated 2020 season but lost talented outside hitter Paige Thibault to graduation, is ranked second in Class 2A.
The Royals, who participated in the last three Class 2A state tournaments (2017-2019), have survived tough graduation losses in the past, and this year is no different. Junior libero Kate Thibault and senior setter Natalie Earnhart lead a still-talented roster. Junior outside hitter Libby Burns had 64 kills and 103 digs in 2020 and senior middle blocker Ashley Olson is a dominant presence for the Royals (9-2, 1-0).
Annandale has already won more matches than it did in 2020 when it went 7-5 overall and has climbed to No. 8-2A. Junior outside hitter Kali Jones, who had 157 kills as a sophomore, and senior libero Alison Helget lead the Cardinals (8-3, 1-0), who won their first eight matches this season.
The Cardinals, however, begin the week on a three-match losing streak. They dropped 2-0 decisions to Brainerd and Kimball and a 1-2 decision to Monticello in the Sauk Rapids-Rice Invitational on Sept. 11.
The third team from Section 5 that is ranked? Maple Lake, which is tied with Jackson County Central at No. 4.