The first games in the FDN area are this weekend as the Faribault girls tennis team heads west to Tri-City United to take on TCU and Bloomington Kennedy.

The beginning of a two-month sports journey is here.

Here's a look at some intriguing matchups to keep an eye on in the first four weeks through Sept. 14. More matchups from the remainder of the season will be featured in a part two.

St. Olaf High School Showcase, Aug. 29

Faribault and Zumbrota-Mazeppa/Kenyon-Wanamingo open their season taking on a gigantic field of runners in Northfield.

Per Milesplit, 27 teams from Minnesota are in attendance primarily from the Twin Cities metro.

They are Albert Lea, Bloomington Jefferson, Buffalo, Centennial, Chaska, Dover-Eyota, Eastview, Faribault, Forest Lake, Hopkins, Lakeville North, Lakeville South, Mankato West, Maple Grove, Minneapolis Washburn, Minnehaha Academy, Mounds View, New Prague, Owatonna, Park of Cottage Grove, Pequot Lakes, Roseville Area, Spring Lake Park, Waconia, Waseca, Wayzata and Zumbrota-Mazeppa/Kenyon-Wanamingo.

On the girls side, Wayzata was second at state last year and is the St. Olaf defending champ. It returns its entire lineup led by current senior Emma Atkinson who took fourth at this event and AA state. Lakeville South was 13th at state and sixth at this event.

Z-M/K-W freshman Natasha Sortland was 19th at this event and eighth in state and could be poised for another high finish.

Five boys teams are here from the top 10 at state last year: No. 2 Mounds View, No. 3 Wayzata, No. 6 Forest Lake, No. 7 Buffalo and No. 8 Eastview. Red Wing is not back to defend its team title and the top four individuals atop the St. Olaf leaderboard graduated.

This meet is a chance for elite runners to get a glimpse at the St. Olaf course that will host the state meet in November.

Faribault has not ran this event in recent years, but state entrant girls Madelyn Skjeveland and Ruby Gernandt have course experience.

The girls race is at 10 a.m. and boys run at 11.

Faribault volleyball vs. Waterville-Elysian-Morristown, Aug. 29

It's a battle of two young teams in a rare Class A (WEM) vs. AAA (Faribault) matchup on the hard court.

The Falcons do not have a senior on the roster but have a strong setter combo from which to build from with Payton Evenstad and Bennett Wolff.

These two will do their best to get their arms on some fireballs from a punishing WEM front line of Delaney Donahue, Trista Hering and Toryn Richards who all measure 6 feet and up.

The Buccaneers are picked No. 5 in the preseason Class A poll, but that's partially a testament to the program head coach Crystal Lamont has built. WEM lost two all-state performers among nine seniors from a 31-3 squad last fall.

WEM and Faribault have not played dating back to at least 2004, as far as Minnesota-Scores.net's records go.

WEM's opener Aug. 27 vs. Kenyon-Wanamingo is also a battle of Class No. 5 vs. No. 1.

Kenyon-Wanamingo football vs. Cleveland, Aug. 29

Home, at last. After living life on the road in 2018 due to field reconstruction, K-W is back in Kenyon for home games. That starts right away with Cleveland, a team making the jump up from nine-man to Class A 11-man football.

The Knights have a tough schedule with games at expected top-10 teams Blooming Prairie and Goodhue late in the season, so getting off to a hot start will be imperative to improve on a 2-7 mark.

K-W and Cleveland have not met dating back to at least 2004 according to Minnesota-Scores.

Faribault football vs. Austin, Aug. 30

The Falcons start their season at home for the second season in a row.

Last year's meeting with the Packers was a turning point. Faribault began the season 0-3 against a bear of an early schedule. That may have allowed it to fly under the radar when it throttled Austin 48-14 on Austin's homecoming night.

Faribault was more competitive the rest of the way en route to the section finals.

It was a good showing for the Falcons' defense against a team that put up bigger numbers against state powers: 27 at Owatonna, 20 at Northfield, 28 at Mankato West and 16 vs. Winona.

Faribault will be a young team in 2019 and Austin will feature new head coach Ed Schmitt, who was promoted after 13 years in the program as an assistant.

The Falcons beat the Packers every year from 2004 to 2015. Austin won twice in a row before Faribault regained control in 2018.

A Sept. 13 game vs. Byron is also an intriguing one for Faribault as the Bears are new to the district as well as Section 1AAAA.

Bethlehem Academy volleyball at Stewartville, Sept. 3

The Cardinals have tough games on their schedule like always. Within the Gopher Conference, WEM and Medford are both envisioning a run to state. In the non-conference, BA hosts Eden Prairie, Kenyon-Wanamingo and New Life Academy and is at Marshall and the Class A showcase.

Perhaps the toughest test of them all is Class AA No. 1 Stewartville. The Tigers return virtually their entire lineup from a 25-5 squad a year ago.

BA has a lot of offensive options and will aim to keep up with the firepower of the Tigers led by all-state middle hitter Erin Lamb and senior honorable mention all-state outside hitter Kaitlyn Prondzinski.

These two teams have met each year since 2014 with Stewartville owning a 3-2 advantage including wins in 2017 and 2018.

Kenyon-Wanamingo volleyball at Kasson-Mantorville, Sept. 10

Stewartville is the narrow favorite to win the Hiawatha Valley League, but these two teams will certainly be a factor.

K-W is ranked No. 1 in Class A and K-M is No. 6 in AA.

The KoMets project to have plenty of talent despite losing college-bound talent libero Bailey Berge and middle hitter Peyton Suess.

K-M is still strong at the net led by Peyton's younger sister, Mya, and all-HVL outside hitter Emilee Terry.

Belmont University bound outside hitter Ally Peterson will look to find more holes in the K-M defense in Berge's departure.

Despite the similar high trajectories these programs have been on, only one match went five sets in the last 12 meetings. That could change this time around.

Reach Sports Editor Mike Randleman at 507-333-3119 or on Twitter @fdnmike.

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