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The undefeated volleyball and basketball teams will kick off the annual Fourth of July parade

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Many of the players on the SPHS volleyball team that won the state 1A championship were among those who secured a state title in the 1A basketball championship as well.

To usher in the annual St. Paul Rodeo this year, a pair of state champion girls teams have been selected as grand marshals for the parade.

The Buckaroos Class 1A volleyball and basketball teams, made up of many of the same athletes, both had undefeated seasons this year, each amassing at least 30 wins.

And as part of their reward, they will reign over the parade at 10 a.m. July 4.

"The way the kids conducted themselves, they were tough as nails," said basketball coach Dave Matlock in a press release. "They didn't back down to anybody. We'd get behind in some games and come right back."

The team drew similar praise from Lesli Hiller, the volleyball coach.

"We went into the (volleyball) season deciding we were always going to try to improve upon what we already were," Hiller said. "Going into state playoffs our focus was to remain confident and calm, regardless of the score, and to always play one point at a time."

The teams had their share of overlap: Emma Connor, Erin Counts, Karlee Southerland, Megan Tuck and Isabelle Wyss all played on both undefeated teams.

The annual rodeo is a major fundraising events for sports teams at the high school, as well as for academic groups, usually through the St. Paul Booster Club. In return, team members volunteer time working the rodeo concession stands and helping park cars.

"You should see them parking cars," Matlock said. "They're everywhere, doing everything."

Hiller, who has coached the team for the past nine years, said her team had one goal in mind for their season. "We came into the season, focused on that goal and how to get there," she said. "The team is a very mature, calm team. They never let drama come onto the team."

She added her team was filled with confident players who help motivate others.

"Sometimes high school kids are embarrassed and afraid to motivate others and put themselves out there," Hiller said. "But this team had strong motivators and confident players. They didn't worry about what other people thought."

Matlock, who began as an assistant coach five years ago before assuming the head coaching role, said he admires the students, families and sense of community in St. Paul.

"I actually told the girls, you don't know how good you have it here," he said. "This is a special place. This group of girls was probably the finest group I've coached and it's not just because they were state champs. When you add up the tenacity, mindset, character, talent and work ethic, this team was heads and tails above everybody else."

Matlock added: "You can enhance them, but they're an innate thing that goes back to the traits they were taught in the homes of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. All these people have been teaching these kids for that moment."

The rodeo opens with a matinee at 1:30 p.m. on the Fourth of July. Additional performances are set for 7:30 p.m. July 2-6.

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