Friday, November 08, 2019

'Always a smile'

So much to write about!

Where to begin??

Just shy of 10 p.m. tonight and the Bonanza Valley Voice sports department rolled back into central home, not the office. Finally saw my wife after a two-day stint away from home life. Took our dog for a brief walk around the block. The first thing I thought of as I turned off of Highway 55 is, "Good grief! In just eight hours, the Buick takes flight again on our way back to St. Paul!"

Before getting into the nitty gritty of how the B-B-E Jaguars volleyball team has earned a ticket to the final day of the state tournament, I'd like to take a step away from the court and talk about just how wonderful it is to get to know the players on this team. They are a very special group of kids who love one another, love their team, love their families, love their school and LOVE the sports of volleyball!!! This is a theme you will hear from me again.

One of the greatest qualities of any athlete is the ability to come back from a set back. In sports, an athlete is dealt set backs on a constant basis to varying degrees. The question is: do you get back up and "return fire" and do what is needed to recover and to ultimately succeed?

For our Jaguars, the answer has been, over and over in these past few weeks - a resounding YES. They have lost just one match since October 5! In terms of "best of five" matches, they have lost just once since falling 3-0 to Maple Lake on October 3.

For "best of five" matches, the Jaguars have lost just three times this fall - once in the state tournament.

Coming out of yesterday's loss to Medford, a loss that could easily be labeled a "punch in the mouth"...the players managed to put smiles on their faces even though the loss was a very difficult pill to swallow. Coming out of the press conference after the Medford loss, Brittany Berge and Grace Illies were certainly dejected but still put their "game face" on and answered questions from the media and - most importantly - both put a smile on their face as they stepped off the press platform and walked back to the arena tunnel at the X. That was quite a moment. I was really struggling with the loss myself and wanted to just "let it go" and let them be. Let them get back to their team and re-group. And Oh, My, did they re-group!!!!!!

Today, Berge, Illies and the rest of the Jaguars rose back up and countered a whole mountain of adversity to succeed when they had to...when the chips were DOWN. It started in game one, which rose to a crazy crescendo as the Jaguars rallied from a 21-17 deficit. They trailed 24-23 with game point staring square at them. Berge's kill tied it, and then a double hit by Henning's libero on a pass attempt (which ended a 30-second back-and-forth volley) plus a Henning hit out of bounds lifted the Jaguars to a thrilling 26-24 victory.

Later, fast forward to the final stage of the match, and the Jaguars out-scored Henning by a 15-7 margin after spotting the Hornets five points to start game five! The Jaguars trailed 11-7 at one point in that final set.

It's easy to smile when you're winning. It's easy to smile when things are going your way. There's nothing all too special about that. But to smile when things are working against you - to smile in defeat, to smile when you fall while competing and giving all you've got to succeed...THAT is special and takes a special level of character to pull off. That is something to write about. That is something to talk about. That is something to remember.

Always a smile. Always gracious in victory and always gracious in defeat. The importance of that quality cannot be understated. Seeing the Jaguars offer their smiles to fans, friends, family - seeing them interact with my oldest daughter who's now cheered for them in all six playoff matches...these will be some of the most special sports memories my family has to date!!!

**Speaking of's freshmen outside Ava Mueller with plenty of smile to share following the Henning win. She talked to the Bonanza Valley Voice sports department on the upper deck food court and provided some thoughts on the win, and a preview of the team's agenda for the night.

There's no doubt about how important Mueller's contributions to the team have been this season and playoffs. After the win, Coach Waddell and Coach Weller (retired) were talking about the frustrations that Mueller caused Henning's defense. The varsity rookie was hitting her spots like a seasoned pro!!! That's what it takes at the state level!!!

MORE great news! Just saw this! Just shy of 11 p.m. and I learned some of the best news I've read this entire fall! The B-B-E Jaguars volleyball team earned the Minnesota Coaches Association Academic Gold Award for having a cumulative GPA of 3.75 or greater. As I've said before, are they great kids or what???

It's quite noteworthy to see that B-B-E's last four opponents are on this list! K-M-S, W-H-A, Medford and Henning. See the full list here:

While I'm filling out what I'm trying to post here, check out this video from game one of today's win at state! The clip begins with Ava Mueller earning a kill to tie the game at 13-13.

Soon after Mueller's kill, Grace Illies earned a kill to tie the game at 14-14. Later, Kylie Winter earns an ace serve to put the Jaguars ahead 16-15. The Jaguars went on to win a nail biter by a 26-24 margin.

I hope to get game five video posted tonight before I try to get a few hours of sleep and take flight back to the X!

Was that fun or what??? YEAH that was fun! Let's do it again tomorrow!

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