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Mabel-Canton, FBA will meet in Section 1A volleyball final

Mabel-Canton snuck past Kenyon-Wanamingo in five sets and Faribault Bethlehem Academy beat Spring Grove in four.

Section 1A, 1AA girls volleyball semifinals
Mabel-Canton celebrates after winning a Section 1A girls volleyball semifinal match against Kenyon-Wanamingo on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022, at Mayo Civic Center in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — A year ago, the Mabel-Canton volleyball team departed the Section 1A semifinals with a sunken feeling.

It had taken on Kenyon-Wananingo and lost a heartbreaker, 3-2. That, after leading 2-1 after three sets.

“That was devastating,” Mabel-Canton Hall of Fame coach Lonnie Morken said. “It was a mission for me and our players for them to get more mentally tough. Last year we fell apart mentally. So we spent a lot of time training on the mental side of things this summer and fall.”

On Thursday at Mayo Civic Arena, the teams traded places. Again they met in the semis and again the match went to a drama-packed five sets.

This time, though, it was the Cougars who left smiling, while the Knights had tears in their eyes.

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M-C won the expectedly tight affair 25-18, 19-25, 22-25, 25-15, 17-15.

“I knew it was going to go five sets,” Knights coach Tracy Erlandson said.

M-C was the No. 2 seed and ranked fifth in the state. K-W was seeded third and ranked sixth.

This time, there would be no Cougars breakdown.

“I think that mental training really paid dividends tonight,” Morken said.

So did a better M-C defense, according to Morken’s youngest daughter, star sophomore setter Sahara Morken.

“Our defense is better this year,” said Sahara, who finished with 50 set assists and plenty of digs. “We are a little bit bigger this year and with a better block. We’re not so short.”

K-W coach Erlandson also was tipping her hat to the M-C defense.

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But honestly, she’s come to expect that out of Lonnie Morken coached teams. The Cougars concentrate on it, year in and year out.

“Their defense is phenomenal,” Erlandson said. “Lonnie is a great coach, his girls play great and they never give up.”

On Saturday, Mabel-Canton will play top seed Faribault Bethlehem Academy at 10 a.m. for the right to go to state. FBA is ranked fourth and the section’s defending champion.

Mabel-Canton 3, Kenyon-Wanamingo 2
Kenyon-Wanamingo#18#25#25#15#15
Mabel-Canton#25#19#22#25#17
Kenyon-Wanamingo: Rachel Ryan 27 digs; Tessa Erlandson 18 kills, 30 digs, 2 blocks, 1 ace; Grace Nystuen 6 kills, 15 digs, 2 blocks; Carmen Nerison 27 assists; Josie Flom 2 kills, 7 digs, 1 ace; Norah Rechtzigel 12 kills, 6 blocks, 1 ace; Emma Paulson 21 assists, 10 digs, 1 ace; Josi Quam 15 kills, 26 digs, 3 aces.
Mabel-Canton: Sahara Morken 51 assists; Makenzie Kelly 29 digs; Sophie Morken 9 kills, 31 digs; Saijal Slafter 22 kills; Kinley Soiney 26 kills.

FBA has the winning stuff against Spring Grove

Spring Grove played right with Faribault Bethlehem Academy the majority of Thursday evening, mostly looking as good as the Cardinals.

Middle hitter Addyson McHugh was doing great things at the net, libero Maggie Lile was digging everything up, and outside hitter Joelle Halverson was coming up with timely kills. And seemingly everybody else was contributing, too.

But it still wasn’t enough. That’s because the Lions weren’t as good as No. 4-ranked FBA when it really mattered — winning time.

Section 1A, 1AA girls volleyball semifinals
Spring Grove’s Maggie Lile hits the ball during a Section 1A girls volleyball semifinal match against Bethlehem Academy on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022, at Mayo Civic Center in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

Ninth-ranked Spring Grove could only once put the finishing touches on a set Thursday night and had its season end with a 29-27, 25-20, 24-26, 25-16 loss to FBA in the Section 1A semifinals at Mayo Civic Arena.

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FBA is the No. 1 seed, while Spring Grove was seeded fourth.

“(FBA) was able to minimize their errors better than we did,” Spring Grove coach Kelsey Morken said. “Their error management was the difference.”

So was the Cardinals’ ability to rise to the occasion.

Cardinals coach Chris Bothun credited her team's prevailing against Spring Grove to its match toughness. That, she said, is bred from the Cardinals' difficult schedule.

"We stack our schedule, playing a lot of bigger schools and schools that are ranked," Bothun said. "That tough schedule allows us to find our weaknesses and then work on them through the year."

Spring Grove was serving to win the first set, but couldn’t grab it. In Set 2, it was tied with FBA 20-20 but couldn’t finish things off there either. After turning things around and doing winning things to end the third set, going on a 5-0 scoring run to close things, it ran out of gas and was eliminated in the fourth set.

This was better than a year ago, though, when FBA beat Spring Grove in three straight sets. The season overall was also better, the Lions finishing 28-5 after going 16-8 last season.

“We continue to get better,” Morken.

Then she considered the daunting task of playing in Section 1A where four teams are ranked in the top 10. Morken likes that challenge, sort of.

“Our section is so tough,” she said. “Playing in this is like playing in a mini state tournament. Playing in a section like this is a blessing and a curse.”

FBA moves to 20-10 and will play No. 2 seed Mabel-Canton at 10 a.m. Saturday at Mayo Civic Arena in the section final.

Faribault Bethlehem Academy 3, Spring Grove 1
Spring Grove#27#20#26#16
Faribault Bethlehem Academy#29#25#24#25
Spring Grove: Lydia Solum 6 kills, 7 digs, 1 block; Kendal VaMinsel 2 kills, 37 assists, 24 digs, 1 block; Katelyn Kraus 3 kills, 4 digs; Addyson McHugh 19 kills, 7 digs, 2 blocks, 2 aces; Kenadee Gerard 9 kills, 10 digs; Sydney Holland 17 digs; Isabel Kaufmann 7 digs; Maggie Lile 2 kills, 3 assists, 41 digs, 1 ace; Joelle Halverson 9 kills, 3 digs.
Faribault Bethlehem Academy: Kate Trump 15 kills, 24 digs, 2 aces; Reagan Kangas 50 assists, 17 digs, 1 ace; Olivia Glumack 1 ace; Jaden Lang 13 kills, 13 digs; Anna DeMars 2 kills, 5 digs; Lindsay Hanson 12 kills, 20 digs; Sydney Dienst 11 kills, 19 digs; Anna Cohen 17 digs; Claire Wisdo 10 digs; Anna Tobin 19 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 pruff@postbulletin.com.
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