Cannon Falls wins state volleyball championship — in a sweep

In just its second appearance ever at the state volleyball tournament, the Cannon Falls volleyball team won it all on Saturday, beating Pequot Lakes in a sweep.

Cannon Falls, Pequot Lakes Class AA Championship volleyball
Cannon Falls celebrates after winning the Class AA volleyball championship match against Pequot Lakes on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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ST. PAUL — Cannon Falls has done it.

The Bombers, in their second straight trip to state after previously having never been there, are Minnesota’s champions in Class AA volleyball.

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And in a surprise Saturday at Xcel Energy Center, it came while barely being challenged by the event's No. 1 seed, Pequot Lakes.

“I just feel utter amazement,” Cannon Falls 17th year coach Melissa Huseth said. “We came in playing our best ball, peaking at just the right time. We asked each of our girls to play each point to the best of their abilities. And then they did just that.”

Cannon Falls made the Patriots look discombobulated all match and got another pile of thunderous kills from junior sensation Madison Burr en route to romping to a 25-17, 25-18, 25-21 win.


There were also plenty of other individual standouts in the title match, such as freshman Falon Hepola, Kyra Schoenfelder and Kallie Johnson.

And then there was this entire team playing together and never showing an ounce of nerves, a marked contrast to what Pequot Lakes went through in this championship.

“Once we got on the court and started playing, our nerves just went away,” said middle hitter Elleana Lind, one of five seniors on the team. "We knew we just had to play our game.”

Did the Bombers ever do that, working together so well that never once did Pequot Lakes seem a serious threat to them.

All of this after losing in the first round of the state tournament a year ago and then graduating seven of those players, including all-everything setter Jaci Winchell.

“I’ll be honest, at the beginning of the season I never would have guessed that we would win the state championship,” Lind said. “Not after losing our setter, a big blocker in front and all of those other seniors.”

But with time, Lind’s mind began to change, as did pretty much everybody else’s on this team. After starting the season with a disastrous 3-0 loss to Century, things started to build, bit by bit.

Freshman setter Hepola had the most massive shoes to fill, that of All-State player and Post Bulletin 2021 All-Area Player of the Year Winchell. But sure enough, and not so slowly, she began to fill them, racking up huge assist totals through the season.


The Bombers were also looking for libero Schoenfelder to make meaningful strides. New at the position, the No. 1 thing for Schoenfelder was to rid herself of her timidity. Libero demands a take-control person darting around and asserting herself, getting to that first return whenever possible.

It wasn’t long before the senior wasn’t just up to that task, but starring in it.

The Bombers also needed All-State middle hitter Burr to continue playing like an All-Stater, and then some. The 6-foot-2 junior with the long arms, wiry strength and leaping ability, fired away with some of the most forceful kills imaginable, all while also working in a steady diet of perfectly placed tap shots and pushed shots to the far corners.

And then the Bombers needed everyone else to do what’s most required from a volleyball team — to play as one.

From the middle of the season on, all of those things happened.

And never did they happen any more than they did in the state tournament.

Talk about peaking at the right time. The Bombers had three state matches, winning in sweeps in each, the final one a burial of No. 1 seed Pequot Lakes.

And a quick check on those three aforementioned players for Cannon Falls who’d been asked so much of when the season started: Against Pequot Lakes, Burr had 21 kills, giving her more than 1,000 in a career that still has another season left. Hepola perfectly placed 40 assists and Schoenfelder chased around for 17 digs.


But there was help from plenty of others, too. That included Kallie Johnson coming through with 10 kills and 10 digs.

This was a team getting things together like championship teams do. The Bombers were too much — way too much — for Pequot Lakes, as they closed their season on a seven-match winning streak.

“We are a team that came together and grew all season,” Huseth said. “We started out with new players on the court this season. But they developed trust and responded with each other. And at the end, we were playing our best volleyball.”

Cannon Falls 3, Pequot Lakes 0
Pequot Lakes#17#18#21
Cannon Falls#25#25#25
Pequot Lakes: Abi Martin 32 assists, 4 digs; Joslyn Rinio 5 kills, 1 block; Grace Offhard 10 kills, 1 ace, 5 digs; Maci Martini 7 kills, 10 digs; Ella Kratochvil 14 kills, 7 digs; Kelsi Martini 2 assists, 14 digs.
Cannon Falls: Kyra Schoenfelder 1 assist, 17 digs; Karsyn Winchell 6 kills, 8 digs; Kallie Johnson 10 kills, 10 digs; Madison Burr 21 kills, 6 digs, 2 blocks; Rachael Miller 5 kills, 3 digs; Elle Lind 2 kills, 3 blocks; Falon Hepola 40 assists, 5 digs.

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
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