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2012 Volleyball preview


Fri, Aug 24th, 2012
Posted in All Sports

Two thousand eleven saw four of the six county volleyball teams put together above-five-hundred seasons. Mabel-Canton and Chatfield headed the field. The Cougars tallied 30-plus victories, won the SEC, and earned rankings in state. The Gophers took home a trophy, the Sub-Section 1AA East Runner-Up (to Caledonia). Fillmore Central and Rushford-Peterson were each formidable also. In 2012, things might not change too much. The above teams should be good, but will they be good enough (to make more memorable runs) is the question. Each faced stacked conference (Chatfield, FC, and R-P finished 4-6 in the 3-Rivers a season ago behind W-K, Caledonia, and L-A) and/or section fields in 2011, and will again in 2012.

In Mabel, it’s basically déjà vu. Head coach Lonnie Morken lost exactly one contributing player off last season’s 31-4 SEC championship squad (their 14th straight title, by the way). That squad fell agonizingly in the Sub-Section 1A East semifinals, to Lewiston-Altura, in five sets, after at one point leading 14-13. The Cougars most certainly are working to avenge that game, working for a deeper post-season run, led by two-time SEC POY, two-time Class A All-State Honorable Mention Belle Sand (5’6” junior OH). The springy Sand isn’t alone though. Lydia Geving (5’8” junior OH, All-SEC), Christy Welscher (5’10” senior MH, All-SEC), and Kristina Mengis (6’0” senior RH) all return to take swings on the Cougar frontline. All-SEC Carly McCabe (5’4” junior) returns at setter. Christine Lee (5’4” junior) returns at libero. Danielle Paul (5’4” senior DS) also was a part of last year’s rotation. The Cougars will start the year ranked in state, but the section is loaded. The past two Class A state champions, Wabasha-Kellogg and Faribault B.A. (each of which will also start the year ranked) came from Section 1A.

Chatfield Gopher head coach Troy Swancutt also knows about difficult competition. His squad will see a lot of it this year. His girls have tournaments in Farmington, Burnsville, and Byron, a head-to-head match-up with AAA Rochester-Mayo, plus 3-Rivers action. The Gophers will look to get battle-tested, or more appropriately, more battle-tested. Eight players return off last season’s 18-12 Sub-Section 1AA East runner-up squad. Libero Alex Duxbury (5’5” junior) is the most notable. She was AA All-State (All 3-Rivers) last season while leading the conference in digs and ace serves. From there, it?s three seniors (5’11” OH Bailey Hilgren, 6’1” MH Haley Kohlmeyer, 5’7” co-setter Kileigh Dudek), one junior (5’7” co-setter Gabrielle Salisbury), and three sophomores (5’10” OH Brook Irish, 5’9” OH Maddy Kammer, 5’6” OH Kirsten Keefe) with experience. Kammer and Keefe (who led the 3-Rivers in serving percent in 2011) were Honorable Mention All-league a season ago. The Gophers are in a similar boat as Mabel-Canton though. Their section (1AA) boasts heavyweights, Caledonia (led by Maria Fruechte and Emma Lange) and Stewartville (the 2011 AA state runner-up).

Fillmore Central finished 24-7 a season ago (tied Chatfield for 4th in 3-Rivers). They made it to Rochester, only to fall to Wabasha-Kellogg 3-1 in the Sub-Section 1A East semifinals. But they are in a similar boat as Mabel-Canton/Chatfield. They return a majority of their roster. Top attacker Alex Peterson graduated, but FC returns its best all-around player, two-time All Three Rivers selection, 5’11” junior OH Taylor Case. Taylor was about as proficient as they came last year, finishing 2nd in the conference in both serving and hitting efficiency. She was also 7th in digs and 8th in kills. Setter Morgan Malley (5’6” sophomore, Honorable Mention AC) is quite reliable (4th in the conference in assists a season ago). Victoria Peterson (5’9” junior OH), Leah Scheevel (5’9” sophomore MH), Sammi Bakke (5’11” sophomore MH), libero Chelsea Rislove (5’6” senior libero), and Danielle Zinsmaster (5’4” junior DS) all saw extensive action in 2011. Head coach Denise Case (2011’s Section 1A Coach of the Year; Taylor’s mom) will have a good, and still young (just the lone senior), group.

One problem Rushford-Peterson coach Tori Lind will have in 2012 is finding a replacement for her sister Kenzie (now on Minnesota State’s volleyball roster). One answer will be last year’s other dynamic attacker (server extraordinaire), 5’9” senior Amy Todd (All 3-Rivers). She’s the second best returning kill-artist (behind W-K’s Katie Cavalco) in the conference. Junior Kendra Crawford (5’6” libero, Honorable Mention AC) gives the Trojans a formidable attack-defend duo. Crawford was the second best digger in the conference a year ago (behind Chatfield’s Duxbury). Mariah Mueller (5’6” senior OH) and Sierra McNamer (5’9” junior MH) were also a part of last year’s equation and will be a part of this year’s too. The Trojans at one point won 10-straight games a season ago (20-13 overall), but amazingly didn’t see Rochester (lost at Lewiston in the Sub-Section 1A quarterfinals). They lost their top attacker (Lind) and setter (Emily Culhane). Todd and Crawford are big pieces to the puzzle, but R-P will need players to step up in order to climb the 3-Rivers standings and make it to Rochester.

In Spring Valley, Kingsland Knight head coach Lisa Kimball has one advantage over every other team in the county. She has a lot of athletes to choose from. The Knights have 19 girls out for volleyball and all are upperclassmen. Seniors Cheyenne Losey (5’10” senior OH) and Jessi Kaster (5’9” senior MH) are the top returnees. Losey, the Knights leader in kills in 2011, was an All-Conference selection last season. Kaster was Honorable Mention. Coach Kimball also has Brianna Musel (5’8” junior OH), Kaylee Beevers (5’11” senior MH), and Mikaylah Hellickson (5’4” senior setter) as returning experienced hands. A season ago, the black and silver went 8-20 and were exited from the Section 1A East tourney in the quarterfinals by top seeded Wabasha-Kellogg. This season’s crew won’t slowly work their way into the season. They open with defending Section 1AA champ, state runner-up Stewartville.

The Lanesboro Burros will be the only squad in the county with a new-new coach (R-P?s Lind was an co-coach/assistant in 2011). Bobbie Vickerman picks up where Lindsey Mace led off. The Burros went 8-16 overall last season, bowing 3-0 to Spring Grove in the first round of the Sub-Section 1A East tournament. Vickerman will have some experience to work with. Linnea Thiss (senior OH/setter), Megan Kiehne (senior OH), Kaia Hongerholt (junior OH/DS), Madison Ming (junior MH), and Bailey Gartner (sophomore OH) all contributed a season ago. Hongerholt gives Vickerman a steady defensive and serving hand. Kaia led the Burros in digs (by almost a 100), serving percentage, and ace serves in 2011. Attacking is a team concern though. All told, the Burros notched 302 kills in 2011, or less than Belle Sand (388), Amy Todd (352), and Taylor Case (309), Section 1A foes, individually.

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