With prognosticators predicting big things in the near future for the Monticello volleyball program, the team got a chance to test itself against some of the other best teams in the state before the season officially gets under way Monday.
The Magic, who are predicted by MN Breakdown to win their section and go to state, were invited to play in the Breakdown’s 4th annual Summer Elite Invitational, held last weekend in Burnsville.
The tournament featured 32 teams, all coached by team captains or volunteers, who the Breakdown publication believes will have a big year.
Monticello, which was led by captain Jamie Maus, came away from the tournament with a 19th place finish, and an even higher level of energy toward the upcoming season.
“It was really exciting to be able to get some good competition before the high school season starts, to see where we’re at and what we need to work on,” said Maus, in a Tuesday interview with the Monticello Times.
According to Maus, and her coach Beth Modaff who was a spectator in the stands this weekend, throughout the tournament the Magic showed some very positive flashes, as well as some areas that still need work.
Monticello’s first match of the day came against Holy Family, a team that returns all but two contributors and looks to be much improved from last year’s five win season.
The Magic took care of business against the Fire, winning 25-23, 25-19.
Next, Monticello took on New Prague, who is expected to contend in Section 2AAA. The Magic fell, 21-25, 19-25.
In the third round of pool play, Monticello fell to pool champion Thief River Falls, 14-25, 21-25. Thief River would go on to tie for third place in the tournament.
Monticello, meanwhile, was sent to the bronze bracket to continue play. In the first round of the eight-team bracket, Monticello took on East Ridge. The two teams split the first two sets, 25-18 and 17-25, before the Magic took control in the third set and cruised to a 15-9 victory to advance to the semifinals.
In the semis they found themselves matched against a familiar opponent, conference rival and perennial powerhouse, St. Michael-Albertville.
Monticello got off to a hot start in the match, defeating the Knights, who they know will stand in their way of a Mississippi 8 crown, 25-15.
But the Knights bounced back. STMA won the second game 25-15, before knocking Monticello out of the tournament with a 15-7 third set.
Despite the loss, the STMA matchup was one of the definite bright spots, according to Maus.
“That was good to see that we can beat them,” said Maus. “Even though we didn’t win the match.”
Also good to see for the Magic was evidence that their hard work has been paying off.
Monticello has been practicing four times a week throughout much of the summer, including two captains practices each week. They’ve also been traveling to play in a weekly league in Maple Grove. It’s all part of an effort to live up to their new hype.
“Once the Breakdown book came out and predicted we were going to state, that put it over the edge,” said Maus, who had already been thinking about doing captains practices. “We had to put in the work.”
One of the areas they’ve really focused on throughout the summer is on serve receive, a part of their game that they felt needed work coming into the offseason. Maus noticed some definite progression on Sunday.
“It really paid off seeing it at the tournament,” she said. “We could definitely see that we’ve gotten better at it.”
The tournament also showed Monticello that there are things to improve if they want to hang with the state tournament contenders this year. But it didn’t discourage them from believing they are fully capable of doing so.
“There are definitely some things we have to work on, but I still think we’ll be a good contender,” said Maus. “Hopefully it will really pay off for us to be doing all the things that we’re doing.”
Contact Clay Sawatzke at firstname.lastname@example.org