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500th career victory for Mabel-Canton volleyball coach

Fri, Sep 27th, 2013
Posted in Canton Sports

On September 3 2013, the Mabel-Canton Cougar volleyball team took the court and played SEC foe Houston. The Cougars dispatched with the ‘Canes 3-0 in work-woman-like fashion. But the night was bigger than just competition. With the win, Cougar head coach Lonnie Morken, the maestro of M-C volleyball over the past 20 years, recorded his 500th career victory. He became the 15th volleyball coach in Minnesota history to achieve the milestone. It was an accomplishment for Coach Morken, his family, the Mabel-Canton volleyball program, all the girls who have played in it, and the towns and families that have supported it over the years. And all of that, started so innocently.

In 1993, fresh out of college , 22 year-old got offered a junior varsity volleyball coaching position at Spring Grove High School. Morken had played a little volleyball at Luther College, and line-judged the woman’s matches. At the time he was a substitute teacher at Spring Grove. Figuring coaching would be ‘a great experience’ he took the position. The following summer, the Spring Grove athletic director told him the position wouldn’t be open (the previous coach was coming back from maternity leave), and so he was no longer needed. Then the Mabel-Canton volleyball head coach position opened up. And so Morken said, “You know what, I’ll throw my name in the hat.” Morken’s plan was to substitute teach for one more year, and (thus) coach volleyball for one year. After that, he was going to ‘branch out’, or move and find a full-time teaching position.

“It [coaching volleyball] was going to be a one year deal,” he adamantly declared.

He went to the interview with Mabel-Canton Principal Lowell Hareldson.

“Well, you know, you’re hired,” Hareldson said, “you’re the only applicant, but you’re hired! You’ll most likely be asked back unless you hit a girl, or lose to North Winneshiek!”

Evidently, neither happened.

Morken didn’t inherit a great program, or a program at all. Mabel-Canton volleyball had gone winless (0-20 if Morken remember’s correctly) the year before he arrived. But one more thing had to happen to ensure what would transpire over the next 20 or so years. About a week after school began, an aide in the elementary title position died. So Hareldson called Lonnie and offered him a paraprofessional job. It was a foot in the door to the full-time teaching positio .....
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