For Wayzata senior setter Stella Swenson, what once seemed so far away is now coming into focus.
She's in the last week of a high school volleyball career that spills over with accolades. She's the ringleader of a team that goes into the Class 4A tournament with a 31-0 record in pursuit of its fourth state championship in a row.
Swenson is a repeat winner of the Star Tribune's Metro Player of the Year award.
It's the first honor of what will be an award-laden week. The volleyball state tournaments, with their accompanying postseason honors, start Wednesday.
"I feel a little sheepish about it," she said when asked about all the awards. "Because there are so many great players and you know so much about what goes on behind the scenes."
Her credentials: She's helped Wayzata to the past three large-school state championships — Class 3A in 2019 and 4A in 2021 and 2022, after the fourth class was added. No tournament was held in 2020 because of the COVID pandemic.
She has distributed 784 set assists, 194 digs, 57 aces and 40 blocks. She threw in 126 kills, a big number for a full-time setter.
Of course, she's had help. Her parents, Eric and Vicki, were college athletes. Vicki was a longtime head volleyball coach at Hopkins. There is a volleyball court in the family's home in Minnetonka.
Older sister Samantha was a four-time All-America setter at Minnesota. Eva is a burgeoning 6-4 sophomore hitter for Wayzata. And Olivia is her fraternal twin sister, a 6-4 outside hitter who is a first-team All-Metro selection herself.
Stella and Olivia share more: Each is committed to the Gophers for college. Call it the Class of 2024, but that's a bit misleading. The Swenson twins will graduate from high school early and move into the dorms around the first of the year.
"We're pretty much always together," Stella said. "I could never have done this without her."
Stella Swenson is a 6-1 setter with an offensive bent. Her primary task is facilitating Wayzata's potent attack, but she routinely seizes chances to score herself. She's well-known for her ability to quick-set, or "dump" the ball back over the net, while the defense is occupied setting up a block. It's a sudden point, the kind that kills momentum for opponents.
"I wouldn't say I'm aggressive, but I would say I want to win," she said. "I've been a very competitive setter. And if there's any way I can help get a point, I will do just that."
What especially sets her apart from other top volleyball players is her intuitive nature. She's the Wayne Gretzky of high school volleyball: She sees the play before it happens, knows just where the ball needs to go and puts it there with precision.
Often, the battle is won before it's fought.
"A huge part of my game is my mental game," Swenson said. "I feel in order to be a strong setter, you have to have good mental game."
Now there's the matter of getting through this final high school volleyball season.
"For me, high school volleyball has gone by so quick," Stella said. "My [career] is ending, and that's just insane to me."
Which leads to this advice for younger players:
"Enjoy it. It's so much fun. And be a part of everything."
All-Metro teams coming Tuesday
Watch for the All-Metro volleyball first, second and third teams on startribune.com at 6 a.m. Tuesday.