Sharing a lighter moment in practice as they prepare for Saturday’s opener are members of the Minneota Vikings girls’ basketball team. Assistant Coach Dale Kockelman appeared in front of (left to right) Natalee Rolbiecki, Abby Hennen, Abby Rost and Morgan Hennen, who sported a “Can’t stop, won’t stop,”  volleyball T-shirt. All four were members of the state championship volleyball team. And all four are likely to start on Saturday.

From frying pan into the fire

No sooner was the state championship volleyball trophy nestled softly into the clutches of the Minneota Volleyball team than player Abby Hennen said, “We play Cromwell in less than two weeks and we’re both rated high.”

Thus the basketball season was ushered in, with several of the state champs taking their game from the volleyball court to the basketball arena in search of a second straight basketball state title.

If they should win it again, that would make back-to-back volleyball and basketball titles in two years. That’s a big order — but it begins in earnest at 12:15 p.m. Saturday at Hopkins Lindbergh High School when the No. 1-ranked Minneota Vikings take on the No. 4-ranked Cromwell-Wright Cardinals.

It’s part of the “Breakdown Sports” two-day tip-off classic that features some of the best girls’ basketball teams going into the new season.

There will be 21 girls’ games spread across two days on Friday and Saturday, November 22-23 at Hopkins. Of the 42 teams in the classic, 27 of them are ranked among the pre-season top-15 in their respective classes.

Defending state champ Minneota is one of three pre-season No. 1 teams and one of three defending champions. The other two are Hopkins in Class AAAA and Minnehaha Academy in AA.

The teams will play on two courts at Hopkins Lindbergh, with the opening game at 5:30 p.m. on Friday between Hill-Murray and St. Louis Park.

The Minneota vs. Cromwell-Wright game will follow games between Holy Angels and Burnsville ( a.m.) and New Prague vs. Alexandria (10:30 p.m.) on the east court. This is the only Class A match-up in the Tip-Off Classic.

Minneota returns four players with considerable experience, including Abby and Morgan Hennen, Natalee Rolbiecki and Abby Rost.

Without Lydia Sussner in the center, they are likely to use a variety of systems that will concentrate on the speed, ability to press and scoring ability of all starters. Added to the attack are likely to be sophomore guard McKenna Yost, post player Jeren Rost and quite possibly a variety of others.

But most likely, this will be a team that will run and gun.

The Hennen girls may well play nearly every position, including the post, and both are quick to take the ball to the basket. Rolbiecki now finds herself in a starting role rather than as a backup and she likely will rely on her outside shooting ability as well as inside game.

Jeren Rost did time as a backup point guard and off-guard and appears to be ready for prime time. Yost is known as a shooter and Jeren Rost as a rebounder.

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