Road to Gold

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By Dennis Anderson
Photos courtesy of SCF Athletics Facebook Page

Where does a team start when their goal is to win a state championship?  When Howards Grove defeated the SCF Saint volleyball team in 2022 earning their fourth state championship, that is when the goal or as SCF coach, Stacie Hoff put it, “our mission” began.  The 10 seniors, 3 juniors, 1 sophomore, and 3 freshmen were all on board to accept the mission.  SCF had the second-best record in the entire state at 36-2.  They lost to the Rice Lake Warriors the day senior Aaliyah Lopez was in a very serious car accident.  The team’s mind was on their injured comrade.  The Warriors, also a 2023 state participant, narrowly defeated the Saints.  The other loss to Chippewa Falls McDonald was in a tournament that had three of the Saint starters sidelined due to injury.  Good excuse, I think so since they defeated Chippewa Falls McDonald 3-0 games in the sectional final. These girls also accomplished breaking River Falls seven-year, home winning streak this season.

You could not ask for a coach more fit to lead this team than Coach Hoff.  Stacie’s demeanor on the sideline was perfect, she never panics and never allows herself to get too high or too low.

In my humble opinion, this team was built around three rock-solid seniors.  Kelsey Cooper, who broke tons of SCF volleyball records while receiving a scholarship from Youngstown State in Ohio – what a leader!

Lucy Belisle, who at times was the most effective player on the court with constant positive leadership, did a tremendous job keeping everyone upbeat!  Belisle bided her time as a sophomore role player and while doing so was the best cheerleader in the gym.  My wife and I loved watching her enthusiasm and positivity!  What a shining example.  Lucy will attend Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on a volleyball scholarship.

Then there is Ayla Schmidt, who could be the best libero I have ever witnessed in high school.  Her digs and passing were nothing short of, let’s say, amazing, fabulous, unbelievable.  The other 12 players fit their roles like a glove.

Morgan Marks’s hustle and determination was contagious.  Now her twin sister, Loganne, was the same way, but she had to overcome a horrific hand injury her sophomore year, and then she tore her ACL her junior year, obviously, this was a tremendous setback, but Loganne asked for no sympathy and came to practice and was a true inspiration to her teammates.
How about the improvement Lydia Petersen made from day one of practice to the 14 kills in the WIAA State Championship?  Everyone has to fill their roles to achieve the success the Saints’ girls showed.

Selah Greenquist, server extraordinaire, played her role when she came in to serve. Her teammates knew it was time to make a run because of how good her serving was.  Let’s flashback to when you were a freshman, Kat Williams will never forget the time in game five of the WIAA State Volleyball Championship game, leading 14-13, a freshman showed amazing composure – she put it over to allow her teammates the celebration of being the best team in the entire state of Wisconsin.  I can’t even imagine the thrill.  How about sharing a state title with your sister?

Well freshman, Britta Olson and junior, Bailey Olson can now talk about it for life as they were a starter and main cog in all of their victories.  Could their parents be any prouder?

You know something Coach Hoff also said when we talked, was that almost everyone on her volleyball squad this year could have started on a lot of teams in this area, but you just can’t play everyone and keep continuity.

Let’s take Kacy Johnson for example, she represented the entire community for an entire year as Miss St. Croix Falls, and what a great representative she was and a great role model for everyone in the gym.  She cheered every single point!

Amelia Svardahl was in the same boat, each and every practice, her job was to make the team better and she did just that.

Then Stacie went on to say she is expecting big things from kids who didn’t get much playing time this year.

Mattea Jacobson, McKenna Warner, and Lucy Braund have the ability to step right in and make this team solid for some years to come.

What Coach Hoff mentioned, to sum up what kind of team she had was that they were not selfish.

Senior Ella Stenberg volunteered to be manager and statistician not to take up a roster spot.  That is amazing for a high school senior.  To me, that does sum up why this team was as successful as it was.  The love these girls had for one another is undeniable.  These girls may not realize what they have done, not only for the School District of St. Croix Falls but the entire community.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the team’s supporting coaching staff, assistants, future hall-of-fame basketball coach, Angie Maternowsky, and Coach Joanna Lessard.

After the sectional final match, the team won 3-0, I told Coach Hoff that this is a pretty darn good team, she looked at me and said these girls are on a mission.  And to do that, they had to beat 4-time state champions, the Howards Grove team that was out to tie the state record of 5 in a row.

My hat’s off to the St. Croix Falls Girls’ 2023 State WIAA Volleyball Champions.


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