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Cannon Falls will play for a state volleyball championship

The Cannon Falls volleyball team knocked off Annandale on Friday in the Class AA state semifinals at Xcel Energy Center.

Cannon Falls Volleyball
Cannon Falls star Madison Burr goes high for a block on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2022, as the Bombers took on Annandale in the Class AA state volleyball tournament semifinals at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Pat Ruff / Post Bulletin
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ST. PAUL — Madison Burr is a frightening presence for opposing volleyball teams.

The Cannon Falls star middle hitter was at her scariest best on Friday night and it went a long way toward lifting the Bombers into the Class AA state tournament championship.

Burr, a 6-foot-2 leaper with long arms and snapping power, smacked 17 kills — almost all of them of the booming variety — as she guided the No. 2-seeded Bombers to a 25-21, 25-14, 25-17 win over No. 3 seed Annandale at Xcel Energy Center on Friday night in the state semifinals.

With it, Cannon Falls will be playing for a state championship at 3 p.m. Saturday against No. 1 seed Pequot Lakes.

In her 17th year as the Bombers coach and having taken them to state for just the second time — last year their maiden voyage — Melissa Huseth was overcome with emotion following Friday’s win.

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A year ago, the Bombers lost in the tournament’s first round. It was a team that had been blessed with seven seniors, including star setter Jaci Winchell.

So, to now be headed to the state-title match with this bunch, it’s almost too good to be true for Huseth.

“It’s hard to describe what getting into the state championship means,” Huseth said, tears in her eyes. “I can’t stop smiling. The tears are from seeing these girls work so hard as a team and seeing them do this together. I love these kids and I love seeing them succeed. I love them finding out that they can do big things together.”

It sure helps the Bombers to have Burr on their side.

Seventeen kills isn’t nearly the biggest total that the junior has ever recorded. But the impact of seemingly each and every one of them on Friday felt massive against Annandale.

They weren’t just kills, they were kills hit so hard that the ball seemed in danger. What that did — as is always the case when she hits with such force — was send an empowering jolt to her team and a searing one to the opposition.

“It helps my energy when I do that, for sure,” Burr said. “It also gets our entire team pumped up.”

And the other team?

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“The other team’s players start to get down on themselves,” Burr said.

For Annandale, it had them scrambling to try to figure out what to do to pacify Cannon Falls’ electric junior.

“We really wanted to limit Burr,” Annandale coach Michelle Macalena said. “She places the ball so well and she comes in from the right side just barreling.”

As good and as intimidating as Burr was, she was hardly alone in Cannon Falls recording such an impressive sweep.

That included getting a masterful performance in the back by libero Kyra Schoenfelder and all kinds of production up front from hitter Kallie Johnson, among others.

Schoenfelder, a senior in her first year as a libero, has been a revelation for Cannon Falls.

The beginning of the season, Huseth literally had to coax her to go after balls, considered the primary job of a libero.

A couple of months later, Schoenfelder is now getting to everything.

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“We had to teach her that it’s OK to step in front of teammates and do that,” Huseth said. “Now she’s now hustling so much. She has progressed from a young player, to a senior who is now playing a full rotation and reading everything.”

Schoenfelder finished with 26 digs. A handful of those seemed all but impossible to get to. But she got there anyway, then somehow had the skill to place a scurried dig to a teammate, keeping rallies alive that almost always ended in Cannon Falls’ favor.

All of it just further dug into Annandale’s hope of pulling off what would have been a slight upset.

Among Schoenfedler’s 26 digs was the 1,000th of her career.

“I felt at the beginning of the year that I could reach 1,000,” she said. “I just went out there and played my hardest ever game. That I’ve done it, I guess that means I’ve succeeded.”

And that Cannon Falls has done this — reached the state finals — says the same thing.

They’ve succeeded beyond almost anyone’s dreams.

Cannon Falls 3, Annandale 0
Annandale#21#14#17
Cannon Falls#25#25#25
Annandale: Ella Unzicker 9 kills; Emerson Helget 17 assists, 7 digs; Jaden Sandquist 4 digs; Carlie Hermes 4 kills, 12 digs; Josie Jerpseth 4 kills, 11 digs; Riley Peper 5 kills; Jaida Thompson 2 kills, 3 digs; Kali Jones 11 kills, 3 assists, 15 digs; Emma Simons 11 assists, 7 digs.
Cannon Falls: Kyra Schoenfelder 2 assists, 26 digs; Karsyn Winchell 7 kills, 6 digs; Kallie Johnson 8 kills, 8 digs; Madison Burr 17 kills, 1 assist, 15 digs, 1 ace; Rachael Miller 7 kills, 1 block; Elle Lind 2 kills, 1 dig, 1 block; Falon Hepola 35 assists, 6 digs, 1 ace.

Pat has been a Post Bulletin sports reporter since 1994. He covers Rochester John Marshall football, as well as a variety of other southeastern Minnesota football teams. Among my other southeastern Minnesota high school beats are girls basketball, boys and girls tennis, boys and girls track and field, high school and American Legion baseball, volleyball, University of Minnesota sports (on occasion) and the Timberwolves (on occasion). Readers can reach Pat at 507-285-7723 or pruff@postbulletin.com.
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