ST. PAUL — Maddie Converse isn’t a freshman anymore.

She still takes ninth-grade classes at Kasson-Mantorville High School and has a "9" near her name on the KoMets’ roster.

But K-M’s young setter has been through the grind of a regular season, the intensity of a subsection semifinal match against powerful Stewartville, and the pressure of a tightly contested Section 1AA championship match against Lake City.

Thursday, Converse looked right at home playing in the Class AA state volleyball tournament for the first time.

"She’s a freshman in her first state tournament, so I didn’t really know what to expect," K-M coach Adam VanOort said, "but I think she has showed poise in the past, so we had a lot of faith in her, and she came out and executed well. "

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Converse served the KoMets to the first five points of the match, and spent the rest of the day setting up K-M’s lineup full of powerful hitters. Converse had 34 assists as No. 1-seeded and No. 1-ranked K-M beat a St. Cloud Cathedral team that is loaded with seniors and had lost just twice all season prior to Thursday.

K-M won in convincing fashion, 3-0 (25-11, 25-18, 25-16).

"(Converse) has definitely stepped up huge for us," said K-M senior outside hitter and Miss Volleyball finalist Peyton Suess. "She had to take on a big role and she’s done awesome with it. She works hard, gets her reps in and has built a lot of great connections with us and we’re really clicking right now."

The victory lifts Kasson-Mantorville (31-2) into the state semifinals for the second time in three years. It will face North Branch at 5 p.m. today for a spot in Saturday’s state championship match.

"We’re just coming in with a lot of confidence," Suess said. "Being the (No.) 1 seed, we know every game is going to be a battle and we can’t take anything for granted, so we’re taking it one game and one point at a time."

K-M’s big-match and state-tournament experience likely helped it sweep the Crusaders, too. Prior to this week, Cathedral hadn’t been to a state tournament since 2008. And KoMets junior hitter Emilee Terry said K-M can still improve upon its performance Thursday.

"Yeah, I’d say we can all play even better," she said. "We haven’t reached our highest potential yet, but we’re going to try and reach that by the end of the season.

"(Having a lot of tournament experience) definitely did help u s because we understood what it takes to win a match like that and how to execute."

K-M made Cathedral’s height advantage a moot point from the get-go. The Crusaders (28-3) start three players who stand 6-feet or taller, but the KoMets’ blockers were up to the task. Converse, McKenzie Evans, Terry, Mya Suess and Peyton Suess all contributed key blocks throughout the match.

Mya Suess had five total blocks, Terry and Peyton Suess had four each, and Evans had two.

VanOort said the KoMets didn’t block well in a 3-1 win against Lake City in last Saturday’s Section 1AA championship match, and they focused heavily on it this week in practice.

"That Lake City match, we got abused on the block," he said. "And I was really thankful after that match that we had that weakness exposed a little bit. It gave us things to really work on this week. A big part of what we worked on all week was being clean with our blocking mechanics and making sure our eyes were locked on, and being at the right spot at the right time.

"(Cathedral) has some big hitters. We were impressed when we scouted them. They have a lot of size, a lot of power and our block shut them down. It’s hard for hitters to get going and get confidence when that happens, so I was overjoyed with the way we responded to our struggles against Lake City. I think that shows a lot of character."


St. Cloud Cathedral 11 18 16

Kasson-Mantorville 25 25 25

St. Cloud Cathedral: Gabby Heying 12 kills, 3 digs, 1 ace, 1 block; Meg Januschka 5 kills, 2 digs; Hallie Hupf 2 kills, 6 digs; Megan Voit 23 assists, 10 digs, 2 kills; Maya Van Erp 2 kills; Lucy Pelzel 3 kills, 4 digs.

No. 1 Kasson-Mantorville: Caroline Braun 6 kills, 10 digs; McKenzie Evans 1 kill, 2 blocks; Maddie Converse 34 assists, 1 ace, 2 digs, 1 block; Emilee Terry 6 kills, 2 aces, 5 digs, 4 blocks; Mya Suess 7 kills, 5 blocks; Peyton Suess 19 kills, 9 digs, 4 blocks; Cate Wanous 1 ace; Madison Cummings 1 kill, 1 block; Anna Braun 2 aces.

The power of Section 1AA and Hiawatha Valley League volleyball teams showed up when the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association named its all-state teams on Wednesday night at the state tournament banquet.

Four players from the HVL and Section 1AA were named First Team All-State. That group is led by Kasson-Mantorville senior outside hitter Peyton Suess, who was also one of five Miss Volleyball finalists. That award was presented to Izzy Ashburn, a senior setter from Champlin Park.

Suess’ teammate and classmate, K-M libero Bailey Berge, was also named First Team All-State. They are joined on the team by Stewartville sophomore hitter Erin Lamb and Kenyon-Wanamingo junior hitter Ally Peterson.

Lamb and Suess are repeat Class AA First Team selections. Peterson was an honorable mention selection in 2017.

Rochester Century senior hitter Nicole Lund was the lone area player named to a Class AAA All-State Team. Lund, an Illinois State University commit who had more than 300 kills for the Panthers this year, was named to the honorable mention team.

In Class A, three area players were named to the First Team, including Spring Grove senior hitter Mariah Edgington, Caledonia junior hitter Lydia Lange and Mabel-Canton sophomore setter Kenidi McCabe. Lange was an honorable mention pick last season.