The Prior Lake boys volleyball team has been a hidden success story.
The Minnesota Boys High School Volleyball Association wrapped up its second spring May 18-19 with the first-ever state tournament in Shakopee. The Lakers were there and ended taking home the third-place trophy.
Fourth-seeded Prior Lake beat Roseville in three sets (25-19, 25-21, 25-19) in the quarterfinals, was swept by top-seeded Andover in the semifinals (25-20, 25-18, 25-18), before beating Minneapolis Southwest for third (25-20, 22-25, 25-19, 25-10) in four sets.
Last year, 22 varsity teams competed in the first-ever MBHSVA season. That number rose to 50 squads this spring with eighth conferences. The Lakers qualified for state by winning the South Conference with a 6-0 mark.
Prior Lake's only loss of the season was at state to the eventual champion, finishing with a 13-1 overall record.
"As far as our accomplishments this year, it goes beyond the success on the court," Lakers coach Mark Nelson said. "Getting third at state was something special that these guys earned. It was great, but it really was so much more than that.
"From the moment everyone stepped onto the court, you could tell that we had our priorities straight," Nelson added "Even though we competed to the best of our ability, the kids will say we always had fun and enjoyed ourselves. We weren't just learning, competing and playing well, but we were doing things the right way. We learned how to celebrate, how to win, how to display good sportsmanship and even how to lose."
Member of the team included: Travis Haedt, Bo Claymore, Jake Veldman, Brennan Larsen, Nathan Jacob, Ruveem Tabakov, Max Benson, Kyle LaGrange, Noah Benson, Sean Erickson, Logan Edwards, Sam Zellmer and Dain Benson.
This past April, the Minnesota State High School League voted down approving boys volleyball as a sanctioned sport for a second time in a 12-7 voice roll-call vote. The MBHSVA has been working on a third proposal for the board to review in the near future.
According the MBHSVA, men's volleyball is the "second most popular sport in the world."
In a 2017 survey by the National Federation of State High School Associations, volleyball is the second highest sport for female participation at the high school level behind track and field. On the boys side, the popularity is more regional where it's bigger in the west with the greatest number of teams in California.
According the NFSHSA, for every boy currently competing in high school volleyball, more than eight girls are involved.
"My wish is that throughout the state people can see how boys volleyball can contribute positively to communities so it will continue to grow," Nelson said. "That will only be done through the love of the sport."
For more information, go to mnboyshighschoolvolleyball.com.