Until this spring, Prior Lake's Luka Mortensen was largely a basketball player, largely being a key word. A ruggedly built 6-5 athlete, he made a decision to close out his high school career by putting his size to use where it made the most sense: on the Lakers' boys volleyball team.
Inexperienced on the volleyball court, sure, but his height and athletic abilities showed through in a big way Thursday as he pounded 18 kills — nine in the decisive fourth set — to help Prior Lake to a 25-20, 25-21, 20-25, 25-23 victory over Rogers in the boys volleyball state tournament championship match Thursday at Shakopee High School.
In May, the Minnesota State High School League voted to add boys volleyball as an officially sanctioned sport.
That is slated to take place in the 2024-25 school year. Until then, the Minnesota High School Boys Volleyball Association will continue to carry the mantle of boys volleyball, sponsoring a league of club teams that this year represented more than 70 schools and almost 2,000 athletes.
Prior Lake coach Mark Nelson mimicked the universal motion for eating when he talked about his team's focus on setting up Mortensen in the final set.
"This means give Luka the rock," Nelson said. "He's got the eye of the tiger. No one's stopping him when he's got that look. Did you see how high he was getting over the net? It was, like, 12 feet!"
Senior libero Ben Klinger is a volleyball vet. Watching Mortensen work had him shaking his head.
"It's crazy that he hasn't played before this year," Klinger said. "In that last set, we said we were going to attack their No. 1, but really, we were just getting it to Luka."
"This feels really good, to go out a champion," Mortensen said. "This was great, coming together and winning as a team."
Nelson said the Lakers' victory over No. 1-seeded Andover set the stage for the tall, athletic Mortensen's championship match performance, creating a surge of assurance for his teammates when it was needed most.
"To beat Andover the way we did was a real confidence boost for our guys," Nelson said. "The guys were saying we definitely had a different mind-set because of that."
Rogers coach Jarol Torres was proud of how his team competed but admitted that Prior Lake's height was too much to overcome.
"They were more physical," Torres said. "They were tall, they could jump and we just couldn't compete at the net against them. They kept doing the same system because they knew it was working and we just didn't have an answer for it."