A season without a postseason was better than no season at all.
That’s the bright side that many volleyball coaches and players across Minnesota are choosing to see, even when it’s not easy to do.
The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the start of the volleyball season, then cut it short before teams could even have a chance to play postseason matches. Still, the 2020 season was memorable for many reasons. In honor of the volleyball postseason having been scheduled to start Monday, we take this look back at some of this season’s best.
KJ Corson, Sr., Fillmore Central: The standout libero was once again one of the best defensive players in southeastern Minnesota this season. Corson recorded double-digit digs in nine of 10 matches for the Falcons, who finished 9-1 and atop the Three Rivers Conference. The multi-time all-conference player averaged nearly 18 digs per match this season and finishes her career with nearly 1,400 digs. Corson’s defensive play is a big reason why the Falcons lost just four sets all season — three in a 3-1 loss to Chatfield on Oct. 19, and one in a 3-1 win at Caledonia on Nov. 10. The Falcons swept their other eight opponents.
Erin Lamb, Sr., Stewartville: The Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association has yet to release its All-State teams for the 2020 season, but it would be stunning if Lamb’s name isn’t the first one on the list and if she isn’t a finalist for Miss Volleyball — if not actually chosen as Miss Volleyball. Assuming she is named to the team this year, the University of Kentucky commit will be a rare four-time First Team All-State player, having been named to the team as a freshman, sophomore and junior. With Lamb leading the way, Stewartville went 90-15 over the past four seasons, including state and Section 1AA championships last season.
Kenidi McCabe, Sr., Mabel-Canton: McCabe carried on a tradition of team and individual at Mabel-Canton, helping the Cougars to their 23rd consecutive Southeast Conference championship. McCabe, a 5-feet-5 setter-turned-hitter, was a First Team All-State player each of the past two seasons and is expected to be again this year for the Cougars. McCabe made her college commitment last week, announcing she’ll play for NAIA powerhouse Viterbo in La Crosse, Wis. Viterbo was a national semifinalist last season, going 35-7 overall.
Ashlyn Meincke, Sr., Century: The standout senior outside hitter for the Panthers averaged more than 4 kills per set this season. Meincke was a team leader for a Century team that went 6-3 and often featured two of her sisters — sophomore Brooke and freshman Kaitlyn — on the floor at the same time as she was. Ashlyn Meincke is a returning All-Big Nine Conference hitter and is likely to earn All-Conference honors again this season. She recorded three or more ace serves five times and averaged 13.25 kills per match. She opened the fall with one of the best performances of this season by anyone in southeastern Minnesota, notching 27 kills in a 3-1 victory against Red Wing.
(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 (11-0)
The defending state champion Tigers were led by one of the best — if not the best — hitters in the state, University of Kentucky-bound senior Erin Lamb. Not only did the Tigers go undefeated in their 11 matches, but they lost a total of just five sets all season. Only five other teams in the state in Class AA lost fewer sets. Stewartville was ranked No. 1 in the final Class AA state coaches poll and it holds wins this season against two other ranked teams -- No. 3 Concordia Academy of St. Paul, and No. 5 Kasson-Mantorville.
2. Kasson-Mantorville (10-3)
The KoMets were unquestionably once again one of the top 10 teams in the state, coming in at No. 5 in the final Class AA state rankings. K-M’s only losses this season came against Stewartville (No. 1 in Class AA), Concordia Academy-St. Paul (No. 3 in AA) and Minneota (No. 2 in Class A). K-M was 8-1 against the HVL, losing just three sets against conference opponents — all of those coming in a 3-1 season-opening loss to Stewartville.
3. Mabel-Canton (14-0)
The Cougars went undefeated and lost just two sets all season, the fifth-fewest in the state in Class A. Mabel-Canton swept 13 of its 14 opponents, its only close match coming in a 3-2 victory at Lanesboro on Nov. 10. M-C has won 156 consecutive Southeast Conference matches and 23 consecutive conference championships. They finish the season ranked No. 4 in the state in Class A. Over the past 23 seasons, M-C has won 13 subsection championships and two Section 1A titles (2000, 2001).
4. Rochester Mayo (7-1)
The Spartans were on a roll before their season got shut down after their only loss, a 3-0 setback against Big Nine Conference and Class AAA state powerhouse Northfield, the No. 6-ranked team in the state. Mayo finished second to Northfield in the Big Nine and it earned victories against the five teams that finished directly below it in the conference standings. In its seven victories, Mayo lost a total of three sets.
The Bears, powered by depth and balance, won five consecutive matches to close the season after starting 3-3 in their first six. They seemingly leaned on a different player every time out this year, whether it was Sacia Vanderpool, Gabrielle Gartner or Sophia Gartner up front, or talented setter Clara Hoegh or versatile Sally DeCook. Their only losses came against No. 1-ranked Stewartville, No. 5 Kasson-Mantorville and a 3-2 setback to Cannon Falls in the season opener. Byron avenged the loss to Cannon Falls on Nov. 13, and it earned quality victories against Lake City and Goodhue.
5t. Fillmore Central (9-1)
Only eight Class A teams in the state that played more than five matches lost fewer sets than Fillmore Central (four). The Falcons’ lone loss this season came against Chatfield, a loss they avenged two weeks later. Eight of the Falcons’ nine wins were 3-0 sweeps, the other was a 3-1 win against Caledonia.
JUST MISSED THE CUT
Lake City (8-4): The Tigers scored an impressive win right off the bat this season, winning at Plainview-Elgin-Millville 3-1 in the season opener on Oct. 8. Three of Lake City’s losses came against teams ranked in the top 10 in the state in Class AA.
Plainview-Elgin-Millville (8-2): Led by senior hitter Alyx Doughty, The Bulldogs’ only losses this season came against Lake City and Fillmore Central. P-E-M swept its last four matches of the season.
Lanesboro (8-2): The Burros nearly halted Mabel-Canton’s 150-plus match winning streak in Southeast Conference play and beat every opponent on their schedule aside from M-C.
2: Of the 25 teams in Section 1A, only two were able to play the 14 allowed regular-season matches this year -- Goodhue (8-6) and Mabel-Canton (14-0). Three other teams, Kasson-Mantorville (10-3), Lake City (8-5) and Hayfield (7-6) came close, playing 13 matches. Hayfield had its 14th match (against Chatfield) called off just hours before it was scheduled to be played.
5: Over the past 23 seasons, Mabel-Canton has lost just five Southeast Conference matches. The Cougars are 290-5 against conference opponents during that stretch, winning the SEC crown each of those seasons.
7: Stewartville (11-0) is one of just seven teams in the state in Class AA to record 10 or more wins this season. Just four of those teams were undefeated -- Stewartville, Marshall, Breck and Watertown-Mayer.
8: The two sets that Class A powerhouse Mabel-Canton lost this season came by a combined eight points. Both of those lost sets for the Cougars came in a 3-2 victory against Lanesboro on Nov. 10. The Burros won the opening set 26-24 and won the fourth set 25-19. Mabel-Canton won sets two and three 25-17, and won the decisive fifth set 15-6.
26: Of the 53 teams in Section 1A, 1AA or 1AAA, 26 of them -- less than half -- were able to play 10 or more matches.
36: Big Nine Conference champion Northfield went 12-0 this season and didn’t lose a set, winning all 36 it played in.