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High School Volleyball Focus: Stewartville, Mabel-Canton make their point

There were a few excellent volleyball matchups in southeastern Minnesota this past week. Two of the best had Stewartville and Mabel-Canton both coming away winners.

Zumbrota-Mazeppa's Megan Schoenfelder (9) hits the ball over the net as Triton's Chloe Staub (8) defends during a Section 1AA playoff volleyball match Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019, in Zumbrota. Post Bulletin file photo / Joe Ahlquist
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There was some proving that went on this past week in this corner of the state when it comes to volleyball.

Two teams came away feeling best about themselves, Stewartville and Mabel-Canton. Both had big matches against fellow powers on Thursday, Sept. 2, and both came away as decisive winners. The Tigers dropped Big Nine Conference contender Mayo and the Cougars dropped fellow Southeast Conference contender Lanesboro.

It’s all reflected in this week’s Power Ranking. Speaking of, let’s get to it, starting with those Tigers.


(Editor's note: These rankings are considered "pound-for-pound" rankings, similar to many rankings systems in boxing and mixed martial arts. They represent the best teams in southeastern Minnesota, relative to the class they play in.)

1. Stewartville


Stewartville head coach John Dzubay talks to his team during a Class AA state volleyball semifinal match against Concordia Academy in 2019. The Tigers are ranked No. 1 in our most recent Power Ranking. Post Bulletin file photo / Andrew Link

The Tigers stay at No. 1 and they just added more evidence that they’re the cream of the crop. At least for now. Stewartville beat an excellent Mayo team on Thursday, Sept. 2, winning 3-1. The Tigers rode all kinds of balance in getting it done, with four players with at least 14 digs. Allie Elliott continues to do great things, including 15 kills, 24 digs and 2 aces against Mayo. Stewartville is No. 2 ranked in Class AAA.

2. Mabel-Canton

Mabel-Canton's Sophie Morken (14) passes the ball during a volleyball match against Lanesboro Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020, in Lanesboro. Mabel-Canton beat Lanesboro 3-2. Post Bulletin file photo / Joe Ahlquist

The Cougars also further proved their worth near the top of this “pound-for-pound rankings.” And they also did it on Thursday, Sept. 2, with a 3-0 over rival and fellow power Lanesboro. It was quite a night for the Morkens. There was Lonnie doing his usual coaching of the team, and daughters Sophie and Sahara dominating play. M-C is ranked fourth in Class A.

3. Kasson-Mantorville

Stewartville vs. Kasson-Mantorville Volleyball
Kasson-Mantorville's Maddie Converse (8) dives for the ball during the Section 1AA championship volleyball match against Stewartville Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

K-M has a loss, but it was a marathon one and forgivable. The state’s No. 1 ranked Class AA team — Southwest Christian — beat it 3-2 on Tuesday. K-M has played just two matches this season, winning the other 3-1 over Lake City. K-M is ranked No. 7 in Class AAA.


4. Cannon Falls

Cannon Falls' Bree Robinson (5) passes the ball during a volleyball match against Byron Friday, Nov. 13, 2020, in Byron. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

Jaci Winchell and teammates have continued to make the Bombers one of the top collections around. Heading into its showdown with Stewartville on Thursday, Sept. 9, Cannon Falls was ranked No. 3 in Class AA, unbeaten (4-0) and unchallenged. Its closest match had been with Century, ultimately a 3-1 Bombers win.

5. Zumbrota-Mazeppa

Zumbrota-Mazeppa's Rylee Nelson (3) sets the ball during a Section 1AA playoff volleyball match against Triton Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019, in Zumbrota. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

The Cougars didn’t crack the top 10 in this space last week. But they’ve made a believer out of this pollster. Z-M went into Thursday night, Sept. 9, 4-0. The Cougars are getting great play from Rylee Nelson, a do-everything player, as well as Natalie Dykes and Lauryn Deiger.

6. Caledonia

Not only has nobody figured out a way to beat the Warriors, but nobody has even gotten a set off them in their first four matches. However, Orono has been their only opponent with a winning record. Beginning Thursday, Sept. 9, Caledonia plays three straight teams with winning records.

7. Byron


The Bears seem to have played more matches than anyone — nine. They also seem to have won more than anyone — eight. There have been some impressive W’s in there, too, such as beating Chatfield, Lake City, Century and Red Wing (all of them in the Century Invitational). The Bears’ only loss was to Stewartville, and they did take one game from the No. 2-ranked Tigers.

8. Kenyon-Wanamingo

The Knights have a nice record, 3-1. They also have the distinction of having taken a game from this poll’s top team, Stewartville. K-W lost to the Tigers 25-16, 26-17, 9-25, 25-16. There is another excellent Quam at K-W, this one Josi. She had 18 assists and six kills against Stewartville.

9. Mayo

Mayo’s Teagan Gate (5) returns a volley during a B-Squad Varsity Volleyball Tournament Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, at The National Volleyball Center in Rochester. Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

The Spartans have been hit with their first loss. But it was to none other than Stewartville. No shame in losing to the No. 2 ranked team in Class AAA. The Spartans are nicely balanced and also with star power. They’ll get a better read on just how good they are starting Saturday when they play in the Shakopee Invitational.

10. Hayfield

It’s time for the Vikings to start playing some matches. Heading into Thursday, Sept. 9’s matchup with Blooming Prairie, the unbeaten Vikings had played just twice. Fillmore Central gave them a run in their opener. But the Falcons are for real


Maddie Converse, Sr., Kasson-Mantorville

One of the top setters in the state the last three years, Converse reached a rare number on Tuesday in her team’s 3-2 loss to No. 1 ranked Southwest Christian (Class AA). Converse crossed the 50-set assists mark in the match, with a jaw-dropping 54. Converse wasn’t too different five days before that, with 43 assists and 16 digs in a 3-1 win over Lake City.

Hilary Minnich, Sr., Stewartville

The senior setter turned in one of her best matches against likely the top team Stewartville has faced so far, Mayo. Minnich delivered 33 assists, 13 digs and 2 blocks in her team’s 3-1 win.

Kaylee Ruberg, Jr., Rushford-Peterson

Ruberg didn’t take long to get done what she did on Tuesday. The outside hitter/middle blocker pounded 20 kills against Wabasha-Kellogg and did it in just three sets. Ruberg is an excellent all-around athlete, the 5-foot-10 junior also one of the Three Rivers Conference’s top basketball players.

Rylee Nelson, Jr., Zumbrota-Mazeppa

Nobody is more responsible for Z-M’s excellent start to this season than Nelson. The junior has the ideal size to be a do-everything player, at 5-9. In a 3-1 over Medford on Thursday, Sept. 2, she did it all with 10 kills, 25 assists, 8 digs, 5 blocks and 2 aces.

Hallie Roschen, Sr., Red Wing

It came in a 3-1 loss, but Hallie Roschen had it going on against Mankato West. The senior setter had 38 assists, 15 digs and 3 blocks.


State rankings

There is just one non-metro team ranked in the top 10 in Class AAAA. That is the Big Nine’s Northfield, coming in at No. 10. Wayzata is No. 1 in AAAA. Stewartville (2nd), Byron (6th) and Kasson-Mantorville (7th) are all in the top 10 in AAA. Cannon Falls (No. 3) is the only southeastern Minnesota team in the top 10 in AA, while Mabel-Canton is the only one in Class A. The Cougars are ranked fourth.

Matches for the calendar

The arguably most anticipated regular-season match in southeastern Minnesota is a ways away, on Oct. 12. That is when Kasson-Mantorville travels to play Stewartville. The two have one of the top rivalries in the state.

Ones to look forward to this next week are Mayo (2-1) playing Chanhassen (3-1) and then Eagan (2-1) on Saturday in the Chanhassen Invitational; Zumbrota-Mazeppa (4-0) with tests against Woodbury (2-1) and New Life Academy (4-0) on Saturday in the North St. Paul Invitational; Kasson-Mantorville (1-1) playing Shakopee (2-0) in the Shakopee Invitational and then at Zumbrota-Mazeppa (4-0) on Tuesday; and Lewiston-Altura (3-0) playing at Lanesboro (1-1) on Saturday in the Winona Cotter Invitational and then hosting Chatfield (4-3) on Thursday, Sept. 16.

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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