Coon Rapids honors 1978 state volleyball champs

Sharen Keller not only helped establish girls’ sports at Coon Rapids High School in the 1970s, but she brought two state titles and multiple state tournament trips during her 32-year career.

Among the volleyball, softball and girls’ basketball teams she helped guide was the 1978 state championship volleyball team.

Keller 1: Members of the 1978 Coon Rapids volleyball team were introduced to the crowd inside the Coon Rapids High School Fieldhouse before the Sept. 19 game. Carol Anderson, middle, slaps hands with coach Sharen Keller, right, while Lori (Bany) Motschenbacher, left, looks on. Photo by Jason Olson

Keller 1: Members of the 1978 Coon Rapids volleyball team were introduced to the crowd inside the Coon Rapids High School Fieldhouse before the Sept. 19 game. Carol Anderson, middle, slaps hands with coach Sharen Keller, right, while Lori (Bany) Motschenbacher, left, looks on. Photo by Jason Olson

Three players (Lori (Bany) Motschenbacher, Sue Austreng and Sally (Mujwid) Kraczek), along with student manager Carol Anderson and Coach Keller were honored for the 35th anniversary of the first and only state volleyball title in school history before the Cardinals’ Sept. 19 match against Elk River.

Current Cardinals coach Scott Arcand introduced each player from the team that went 24-2 in 1978.

Memories began flowing back for Keller who retired from teaching at Coon Rapids High School in 1999.

“To see the school and fieldhouse, it brought back a lot of memories. I really enjoyed my time at Coon Rapids High School over 32 years. We had lots of good moments,” she said. “It was really a great feeling [to be honored with them on their home court].”

The Cardinals opened that special 1978 season with a loss to Irondale. But they reeled off three straight wins in the state tournament against Robbinsdale Armstrong, Hibbing and then Osseo (two sets to one) in the championship match.

The 1978 team, captained by Joan and Jean Schroer, made it three straight state appearances. Coon Rapids added a fourth appearance in 1981, but hasn’t been back to state in the past 31 seasons.

Joan earned Most Valuable Player honors during the post-season banquet. The Schroers’ and Bany were named to the All-Conference team and Best Server honors went to Austreng.

Members of the 1978 Coon Rapids state championship volleyball team pose with the trophy before the current Cardinals took the court Sept. 19. Pictured from left; Carol Anderson, Sally (Mudwid) Kraczek, Coach Sharen Keller, Sue Austreng and Lori (Bany) Motschenbacher. Photo by Jason Olson

Members of the 1978 Coon Rapids state championship volleyball team pose with the trophy before the current Cardinals took the court Sept. 19. Pictured from left; Carol Anderson, Sally (Mudwid) Kraczek, Coach Sharen Keller, Sue Austreng and Lori (Bany) Motschenbacher. Photo by Jason Olson

More than three decades after their state title run, Keller fondly recalled memories of the team. “It was the team that was the closest of any I coached and they just gelled together; didn’t complain about anything and were easy to work with,” Keller said, who coached volleyball from 1972 to 1997.

“The teamwork was there and everything was great, all-around,” she said. “They were really great kids.”

Without many other coaches stepping forward to coach girls’ programs, Keller found herself busy each season.

She coached the brand new fast-pitch softball team to the first state fast-pitch softball tournament in 1977. She was also an assistant coach on the 1981 state championship girls’ basketball team.

Keller recalled that 1977 softball season as much of a growing time for her as it was for the team. Although she coached some of them for a third season in 1977, the 1975 and 1976 seasons were spent coaching slow-pitch. “We had a lot of talented kids and we had a lot of good all-around kids,” she said. “That’s why we were successful. We had to get everyone into a different mode [for fast-pitch] but we had hard workers and talented kids.”

Every September Coon Rapids volleyball hosts the Keller Classic, named after the longtime coach. Originally named the Coon Rapids Invitational, it is one of the oldest-running high school volleyball tournaments in the state, dating back to an eight-team format in 1976. After the fieldhouse expansion in 1991, the tournament grew to its current 16-team field and was renamed after Keller on her retirement in 1999.

Since retiring Keller has done anything but stayed still. She’s an active volunteer around the community through Coon Rapids Kiwanis Club and North Heights Church. She volunteers with Bikes for Kids and recently started in-home organ lessons.

Keller also helps organize volunteer outings to the Coon Rapids location of Feed My Starving Children in addition to ushering special Christmas and Easter programs at her church. She is also the president of her townhome association and likes to keep an eye on the University of Minnesota and Coon Rapids athletics when she can.

Jason Olson is at
jason.olson@ecm-inc.com

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