Local Athletes Help Spike Interest in Volleyball
Minneapolis is the center of the volleyball universe this weekend as the NCAA Final Four will be played at Target Center. Fans will get a chance to dig a sport that is seeing a spike in interest.
“It’s become contagious and it’s taken off and just built itself,” said John Yunker, head volleyball coach at Champlin Park High School. “It’s very cool to see. We’re going to try and keep growing the game the best we can and obviously the Final Four here is going to help that immensely.”
“Minnesota is a big volleyball state and I think we have a lot of fan base,” said Lauren Clark, who played for the Rebels. “I think it’s going to be really cool to see the turnout for how many people come.”
BYU, Illinois, Nebraska and Stanford survived the brackets and are the quartet of schools playing for a title.
Rebels on Display
Meanwhile, 24 of the nation’s top prep seniors will be on display in the Under Armour All-America match on Friday night. That includes Lauren Clark and her teammate, Izzy Ashburn, who will both compete for Team West.
“It’s nothing I ever could have expected coming in at this point,” Ashburn said. “It’s something we’ve always wanted to do, especially together. We’re just excited to be here.”
“I’ve loved playing with Izzy the last few years,” Clark said. “I think we’ve created a really good bond so it’s going to be fun to showcase this in the match tomorrow.”
Next season Ashburn will be going to Wisconsin, while Clark will attend Penn State.
“Volleyball in Minnesota kind of flies under the radar a little bit,” Yunker said. “People think California, Texas, Florida, but there’s a lot of good volleyball up here.”
Having the Final Four in the Twin Cities is an exclamation mark on a dream season for Champlin Park.
The Rebels are still basking in the glow of winning their first state title – which earned them a police escort to celebrate their accomplishment.
“To have the police escort and lots of people back there for the welcome that was pretty cool,” Yunker said. “It was kind of a small town feel.”
Semifinal matches for the volleyball Final Four are Thursday night and the championship is Saturday at 8 p.m.