The section volleyball tournaments begin this week. Here is a look at the top teams to watch in Section One:
• Lakeville North (18-10): No. 7-ranked (Class AAAA) Lakeville North showed a couple of quality southeastern Minnesota teams how good it is last weekend in its own tournament. It beat No. 3-ranked (Cass AAA) Stewartville 2-0 and won by the same score against Century. Senior outside hitter Kaitlynn Peterson is a major weapon for the Panthers.
• Mayo (18-9): The Spartans took a big leap on Oct. 12 when they beat Big Nine Conference power Northfield, 3-2. But they also looked vulnerable recently in losing 4 of 5 matches in the power-packed Lakeville North Tournament. That included a 2-0 loss to Stewartville.
• Northfield (21-7): Northfield has been ranked in the top 10 in Class AAAA much of the season. After losing to Mayo on Oct. 12, the Raiders righted things by winning 3 of 5 matches in the daunting Lakeville North Tournament.
• Kasson-Mantorville (25-3): The second-ranked KoMets gained all kinds of momentum after beating Stewartville on Oct. 12 in a marathon, winning 3-2. K-M followed that up by winning all four of its matches in the Eastview Tournament. Senior Maddie Converse is one of the best setters around.
• Stewartville (20-3): The No. 3-ranked Tigers were unbeaten until Kasson-Mantorville took them down Oct. 12. Stewartville isn’t the same team that it was earlier in the season, with dominant outside hitter Arianna Blohm now lost for the season with a stress fracture in her back. Still, the Tigers remain a force.
• Byron (24-5): The Bears are having one of their best seasons in years and have done it behind balance. Byron has won nine of its last 10 matches and is ranked a lofty fourth in Class AAA.
• Cannon Falls (23-5): The Bombers are enjoying one of their best seasons ever. They also have one signature win, having beaten No. 2-ranked Kasson-Mantorville 3-0 on Oct. 7. No. 3-ranked Cannon Falls might have the best player in the area, setter Jaci Winchell.
• Zumbrota-Mazeppa (20-6): Z-M is also having one of its best seasons in a while. The Cougars had an impressive win over No. 3 Cannon Falls on Sept. 21, bolstering their confidence. Z-M’s Rylee Nelson had 13 kills, 31 assists, 19 digs and 5 aces in that one.
• Lake City (19-9): The Tigers also have some quality wins, including over Zumbrota-Mazeppa and Kenyon-Wanamingo. They’ve also had a quality loss, just 3-2 to Cannon Falls.
• Mabel-Canton (22-3): This is M-C’s best chance to make it to the state tournament in a long time. The Cougars are the highest ranked team in the section (No. 6), though Bethlehem Academy (No. 7) and Kenyon-Wanamingo (No. 9) are just behind. The Cougars are young but excellent.
• Bethlehem Academy (15-8): The Cards have been on a tear to end the season, having won their last seven matches. There have been some quality wins, too, such as 3-1 over Kenyon-Wanamingo in September. FBA is ranked seventh.
• Kenyon-Wanamingo (16-3): The No. 9-ranked Knights are another team that’s rolling, having won 12 of their last 13 matches. Among K-W’s most quality wins was a 3-2 triumph over solid team Lake City.
• Grand Meadow (16-11): There is no leaving the Superlarks off this short list after the way they ended their season. First came a 3-2 win over Lanesboro on Monday, then a 3-2 win over Mabel-Canton on Tuesday. Those two had represented two of the top three teams in the Southeast Conference.
— Pat Ruff • Post Bulletin