The Class A #3 seed and #5 ranked Faribault Bethlehem Academy Cardinals will open State Tournament action today against the Tigers of Pine River-Backus.

The Tigers do not have a senior on their roster and could get caught up in the bright lights of the Excel Energy Center in St. Paul.

While the Cardinals did not get to the State Tournament last season they have a tradition that is really incredible to get your head around.

Since 2002 Bethlehem Academy has only missed the State Tournament in volleyball three times (2010, 2013, 2016) and they have never missed the finals when they've been in the State Tournament.

Five times the Cardinals have been State runner-up (2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2015)

Seven times they have been crowned State Champs (2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2014)

Bethlehem Academy has the lowest enrollment in this year's Class  A field with 143 students in grades 9-12.

Pine River Backus has an enrollment of 190.

The largest school in this year's Class A State Tournament is New Live Academy of Woodbury with an enrollment of 235 students.

Pine River-Backus is riding an eight match win streak and defeated Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa in the Section title match.

The Tigers do not have a lot of height on their side.

5'11 junior middle hitter Alyssa Semmler nearly 400 kills and over 100 blocks this season.

5'7 junior middle hitter Bailey Wynn is approaching 300 kills, 75 blocks and 326 digs.

5'8 junior outside hitter Gabby Rainwater has nearly 200 kills and 313 digs.

Freshman setter Riley Hirschey has nearly 800 set assists and leads the team with 28 ace serves.

Nothing has come easy this season for Bethlehem Academy but they do appear to be playing their best volleyball of the season at just the right time.

Maybe their comeback from a 14-12 deficit in the fifth set against Hayfield in the Subsection title match was a call to destiny for this Cardinal team.

Coverage on KDHL Radio begins 2:45 p.m. if we are on time.

The broadcast is also available worldwide at or by downloading the FREE Radio Pup app on your favorite mobile device.

Section 1A Volleyball Champion Bethlehem Academy. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld