Cannon Falls gets it right this time, advances to state volleyball semifinals
No. 2 seed Cannon Falls left no doubt on Thursday in the Class AA state volleyball tournament quarterfinals, blasting Pipestone Area in a sweep.
ST. PAUL —- Cannon Falls didn’t repeat what happened a year ago. Not even close.
After falling in five sets in the Class AA state tournament quarterfinals last year — the school’s first ever trip to the state volleyball tournament — the Bombers took care of business in a hurry on Thursday afternoon at Xcel Energy Center.
Cannon Fall played up to its No. 2 seed, flying past unseeded Pipestone Area in a sweep. The Bombers won 25-22, 25-19, 25-22.
It bumped their record to 27-7 and left them winners in nine of their last 10 matches.
Cannon Falls 17th-year coach Melissa Huseth says that her team is precisely where it should be now, in the state semifinals. The Bombers have been grinding for this.
On Friday, at 7 p.m. Cannon Falls will take on No. 3 seed Annandale in the semis.
“We wanted this match very much,” said Huseth, whose team is ranked sixth. “We wanted the opportunity to play in the championship bracket.”
That their getting it had as much to do with the Bombers’ defense as their offense. And that is saying something, because Cannon Falls has one of the best attacks in the state led by junior All-State middle hitter Madison Burr.
Burr was at her usual punishing best, using her 6-foot-2 height, leaping ability, strength and smarts to pound 18 kills.
She bothered the Arrows, no doubt, just as she bothers every team.
“Madison always plays with a lot of confidence; she is not a person to get down on herself,” Cannon Falls libero Kyra Schoenfelder said. “And what she does to the other team is she scares them.”
But again, what “scared” Pipestone Area as much as anything as it tried to deal with Cannon Falls was the way it played defense.
The Arrows had a tough time generating offense, as the Bombers were either digging up shots or sending up blocks that Pipestone Area could’t navigate around. The latter is an area that Huseth has been emphasizing all season and the payoff has been large.
“As the match progressed, we figured out Pipestone Area’s timing on their attacks,” Huseth said. “They weren’t as confident with their swings later on because we closed things up with our blocks. And that allowed things to be a bit easier for our back row.”
It was Cannon Falls’ best blocker all season who was again on Thursday, Elleana Lind. The 6-foot senior led the way against the Arrows with seven ace blocks.
And as for that Cannon Falls back row, they were busy and stifling. The Bombers finished with 54 blocks, a big number for a three-set match. Schoenfelder and Karsyn Winchell each had 10.
“They were digging up balls left and right,“ Pipestone Area coach Dave Dulas said of Cannon Falls’ back-row players. “And they chased down balls left and right.”
The Bombers played with a confidence and a sense of belonging, things that were somewhat missing last year in the team’s maiden state voyage.
Thursday, the Cannon Falls players felt sure of themselves just as soon as they opened the Xcel Energy Center doors and stepped in.
After playing three matches there last year, it no longer felt like an intimidating place. Instead, it felt more like home. And the Bombers played like it.
“Being here last year helped us a ton,” Schoenfelder said. “When we got here, my teammates and I were saying that it felt like we belonged here. The Xcel Energy Center can be intimidating. But it wasn’t this time. We’ve worked hard to get here.”
Cannon Falls 3, Pipestone Area 0
Pipestone Area: Arinn McGee 6 kills; Kayla Hubbling 12 kills, 7 digs; Melony Remund 4 assists, 16 digs; Megan Lingen 24 assists; Kyla Hubling 5 kills, 7 digs; Meredith Draper 7 kills, 3 digs.
Cannon Falls: Kyra Schoenfelder 3 assists, 10 digs, 1 ace; Karsyn Winchell 8 kills, 10 digs, 1 ace; Kallie Johnson 5 kills, 1 ace; Madison Burr 18 kills, 8 digs, 2 aces; Rachael Miller 4 kills, 3 digs; Elle Lind 1 kill, 2 digs; Falon Hepola 28 assists, 6 digs.