Kasson-Mantorville has earned the No. 3 seed for the first-ever boys volleyball state tournament.

But seedings are just a number to the KoMets.

After a 9-1 regular season and a 3-0 victory against a strong Lakeville South team on Monday night, K-M has high hopes as it prepares to head to Shakopee High School for the eight-team tournament, which begins Saturday.

K-M faces Southwest Minneapolis at 11 a.m. in a state quarterfinal match.

“We’re excited. Our hope is to win,” said K-M middle blocker Brody Hegge, one of four second-year regulars for the KoMets. “That’s our plan, our goal. We just have to go up there and play the best volleyball we can. It’s great because we’re getting hot, playing well right at the end of the season. That’s what you want to do.”

In just its second season as an organized club sport in the state, the number of boys volleyball teams more than doubled compared to 2018, going from 23 to 52.

The teams are divided into eight conferences, with each conference champion earning a trip to state. K-M won the Southern Minnesota Conference.

“That was our goal, to get (to state),” K-M setter/outside hitter Aaron Winkle said. “I feel like we’ve improved greatly from the beginning of the year to now, just with our overall communication, our passing, how we play as a team. We’ve seen, all the teams throughout Minnesota are so much better than last year. The skill level is definitely higher.”

In addition to Winkle and Hegge, senior outside hitter Nic VanOort and defensive specialist Asher Rutgers were around last season, on K-M’s first boys team.

That means the KoMets have welcomed a lot of new faces this season, so many that they were able to field a JV team.

“We’ve got the young guys up to speed pretty quickly,” said Nic VanOort, son of head coach Adam VanOort, who also coaches the highly successful girls program at K-M. “We had some guys come to open gyms before the season started and they meshed right in with our team, and it’s worked out well.

“All of the teams we’ve seen this year are improved, better communication, teams running offenses, it actually looks like volleyball, running faster sets.”

Hegge said Adam VanOort pushes the boys players to be their best, just as he does with the girls players at K-M.

“He’s just as intense,” Hegge said. “He’s always excited, pushing us to be the best we can at all times during a match. ... It’s truly fantastic because he has such a wealth of knowledge, he’s been playing it for such a long time. He knows so much about the game that can help us.”

The KoMets are improved, as well, as evidenced by their sweep of Lakeville South on Monday in Kasson. South plays in the highly competitive South Metro Conference.

“That was one of the best games we’ve played as a team, passing, setting and hitting,” Rutgers said. “Because we did so well against (South) that will only help us going into the state tournament.”

Regardless of the outcome this weekend, the KoMets’ veterans said they’re just happy to see the sport growing and gaining popularity across the state.

Six of the eight teams in the state tournament are from the Twin Cities metro area.

K-M and Proctor-Hermantown are the outstate teams that have qualified.

“It’s awesome, growing the sport in the state is the best thing that could happen, just so we get more people to play it and to have better competition,” Hegge said. “Hopefully Minnesota can be known as one of the best states for volleyball.”

As for this weekend, K-M is more concerned about playing to the best of its ability, as opposed to worrying about what its opponents bring to the court.

“It’s more about what we do best and showing up when we need to,” Winkle said.

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Sports Reporter

Jason has been a Post Bulletin sports reporter and columnist since 2004 and covers high school football, volleyball, softball, golf, hockey, junior hockey and auto racing. He is a 1999 graduate of the University of North Dakota.

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