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Volleyball Preview/Blue blasts off

Fri, Aug 30th, 2013
Posted in All Sports

By Paul Trende

Volleyball Preview

Just like on the gridiron, the beginning of the 2013 volleyball season is marked by changes. As of fall sports, the Winona-Cotter Ramblers (a former HVL school) are now officially in the 3-Rivers. They bring the league up to 12 teams. Three county schools have new coaches, Nikki Schultz (R-P), Jackie Whitacre (Kingsland), and Chris Knutson (Lanesboro). This season will also be the first in quite some time where Wabasha-Kellogg and Caledonia don’t have strangleholds on both the 3-Rivers and Sub-Section 1A/1AA races. With players like Emma Lange, Maria Fruechte, Katie Cavalco, and Kalyn Biever graduated, said races are opened up. Mabel-Canton, Fillmore Central, and Chatfield all have a very good shots at filling said voids, at pushing towards championship greatness.

In Mabel, as it pertains to the Southeast Conference, volleyball championships and greatness go hand-in-hand. Lonnie Morken’s Cougars went undefeated in SEC-play enroot to their 15th straight league title. They finished with a 31-6 record, were 1A-East runner’s-up (lost to W-K 3-0). This year, M-C has a standout senior class of long-time varsity players. Three-time SEC POY (two-time All-State Honorable Mention) Belle Sand leads the cast. What the 5’7” OH lacks in height, she makes up for in jumping ability, arm-speed, and talent. Sand led M-C with over 300 kills and digs last season (went over 1,000 kills game one of the 2013 season). Joining her are fellow All-Conference players Carly McCabe (5’4” S) and Lydia Geving (5’8” OH). Libero Christine Lee (5’4”) and Sara Lind (6’0” MH) complete the M-C returning senior five-some. From there, M-C lacks varsity experience. But the Cougar’s are still the heavy SEC favorite. They’re very capable of winning 1A-East. They begin the season ranked #6 in the Class A polls.

One team M-C will have to get thru in 1A East is neighbor Fillmore Central. Denise Case’s Falcons (26-6) finished in the 3rd place in the 3-Rivers last year, and seemed destined for the Sub-Section finals. They led M-C 2-0 and 9-2 in set three of the semis, only to fall in five sets. FC can either forget that game, or use it as motivation. Either way, the Falcons are a team to reckon with. Steady and angular 5’11” senior OH Taylor Case (All-Conference, All-State HM) leads the Falcons. Taylor is the top returning kill-artist in the 3-Rivers and the only returning player to amass 300 kills and digs last season. Joining her are returning A-C players Morgan Malley (5’8” Jr. S) and Victoria Peterson (5’7” Sr. OH), plus returning starters Leah Scheevel (5’9” Jr. MH), Sammi Bakke (5’11” Jr. MH), and Kaitlynn Aug (5’11” Jr. RH). The FC troop returns intact save for one (libero Chelsea Rislove). The Falcons have size, experience, talent, frontline depth, and they’ve played together a long time. It wouldn’t be unlikely to see them climb higher than a pre-season #14 ranking, to grab some kind of a championship.

In Class AA, Chatfield is also ranked (tied at #10). The Gophers finished last season with a 21-10 record. They were 1AA-East runner’s up, falling to Caledonia 3-0. Unlike rival FC, whose strength is its front-line offense, Troy Swancutt’s Gophers’ strength is defense. Led by probably the best back-line in the 3-Rivers, two-time All-State libero Alex Duxbury (Sr), and juniors Maddie Talamantes (5’6” OH) and Kirsten Keefe (5’7” All-Conference), scoring on the Gophers was, and will be, tough. The key for Chatfield to somehow get past the 1AA finals (where they’ve fallen the past two years) is getting steadier offense. That assignment pry falls on senior Camille Rasmussen (5’9” OH), and juniors Maddy Kammer (5’9” OH), Brook Irish (5’11” MH), and Keefe (who’ll play all the way around). Sheridan Salisbury (5’8” So.) could also get in on the act, but she will share setting duties with sister Gabrielle (5’7” Sr.) too. The Gophers are talented, experienced, and versatile. Maybe most importantly, they don’t have to deal with Caledonia’s Fruechte and Lange come Sub-Section’s. That puts them in an opportunity-ripe position.

In Rushford, Nikki Schultz is probably in the most opportunistic spot of the three new Fillmore County volleyball coaches. She inherits a team that returns the biggest number of pieces from a year ago, and the most talent. Kendra Crawford (5’6” Sr. Libero, All-Conference) can stave off attacks like few others in the 3-Rivers. She led the league in digs a season ago. Fellow senior Keela Brand (5’5” DS) returns to join her on the Trojan back line. Up front, Sierra McNamer (5’9” Sr. RH), Kate MacKenzie (5’8” Sr. OH), and Bailey Holien (5’10 Jr. OH) all took swings last season. The only problem is, they weren’t lead swingers. A graduated Amy Todd was the Trojan workhorse, leading the team in kills, aces, and blocks, the conference in kills and aces. That’s a lot of production to replace. R-P has finished the past two seasons with 20-plus wins (22-11 last season). Yet they still didn’t get out of the first round of the 1A East play-offs (lost to Goodhue 3-1 last year). Coach Schultz comes from Wabasha, a program that has yearly reservations in the 1A East finals. R-P fans are hoping she can take her new team to that level.

In Spring Valley, Jackie Whitacre takes over the Knights. Kingsland got a play-off win last year, but then were W-K’s quarterfinal sacrificial lamb (3-0) on its way to a Sub-Section title. The Knights finished the season 12-17. Whitacre inherits a squad that lost 11 players to graduation. She does get the services of experienced seniors Brianna Musel (5’9” OH), Haley Colton (5’3” OH), Kailynn Hamersma (5’7” MH), and Rialie Fenske (4’11” DS) back. From there, it’s a cast of varsity-unproven players. The Knights will be small, but Whitacre hopes to win games with conditioning and teamwork. She is familiar with her squad. Whitacre coached her girls on B-squad, and thus she is ‘comfortable with (them) as athletes and as young ladies ready to prove themselves at (the varsity) level.’”

The Houston Hurricanes join the Fillmore County Journal coverage fray. The ‘Canes lost to Kingsland last season 3-0 in a 1A East play-in game, and finished with a 11-17 record. Senior hitter Abby Loken is head coach Steve Kinstler’s crown jewel. The 5’11” Loken is already the Houston all-time regular season, and career leader in kills, and will only add to her records this season. Kyla Olson (5’4” DS), Natalie King (5’9” MH), Heather Lundberg (5’8” Sr. OH), and Brianna Kerrigan (5’9” OH) are four other seniors with experience who’ll be the rotation this season. Kinstler likes the positional depth he has (7 seniors and 7 juniors), and the versatility it gives him to ‘try different pieces of the puzzle.’ Houston pry won’t compete with the M-C’s of the SEC world, but they’ll look to keep pace with the Spring Grove’s.

In Lanesboro, Chris Knutson takes over the Burro volleyball program. She brings experience to her work. Knutson coached Lanesboro volleyball in the late ‘90’s are early ‘00’s. She inherits a squad that won just one game a year (1-17) and fell to Spring Grove 3-1 in a Sub-Section 1A play-in game. That means there really isn’t anywhere to go but up. The Burros have four seniors, three of which were starters. Kaia Hongerholt (5’8” OH) is a versatile talent who will play all the way around the floor. Madison Ming (5’9” OH) and Regan Howerton (5’10” RH) also started a season ago and will play up front. Juniors Olivia Haug (6’0” MH) and Steph Erickson (5’5” Jr. S) also have experience. After a one-win season, the Burros are playing it week-to-week. They have to, as it’s definitely an evolving-process after last season. The good news it, ‘they’ve forgotten about it’ whilst ‘keeping a positive attitude.’ The Burros are ‘ready.’”

Blue blasts off

One couldn’t have thought up a better start to a new football season, and a new football conference, then pitting the top two teams from last season, the top two pre-season teams this season, against each other right away. Chatfield and Caledonia battled twice a year ago, Caledonia handing the Gophers their only two losses. The two teams christened the start of S.F.A Blue Division by butting heads in game one of the 2013 season. And the game lived up to the hype.

Chatfield, not the ballyhooed Warriors (the defending three-time state champs on a 41-game winning streak), looked impressive early. A 49-yard run by standout senior tailback Jake Neis set up score number one, a Nate Skare to Alex Bradt 2-yard connection on 4th and one from the two. A series later, Skare critically hit Drew Hurley for 24 yards on 3rd and eight, which led to a 1-yard plunge by Neis. After one quarter of play, the visiting Goph’s led 12-0. At that point, Caledonia had just one first down.

The Warriors had two really big sequences in the game. The first came midway thru the 2nd quarter. On 4th and 10 from the Warrior 49, Caledonia punter Mason Ashbacher (#74 mind you) couldn’t handle the long snap. He did, pick it up the low ball and rumble his way for an 11-yard gain and a first down. Two plays later, Ryan Pitts made the Gopher special teams gaffe hurt. The senior tailback floated a perfect 38-yard halfback-pass strike to wide receiver Sam Schulte, making it 12-7. Later in the quarter, junior QB Mason DeMorrett hit Adam Goetzinger from 11 yards away and, at the half the top-ranked Warriors led 13-12.

Chatfield rallied the wagons. With their first possession of the second half, they got the ball to Jake Neis. The crafty Neis created magic by weaving and then darting his way to a 59-yard TD run (18-13). From there, the game stalled. Chatfield had a golden opportunity with under 8:00 to play: first and ten at the Warrior 11. They were turned away on downs. Caledonia’s second big sequence, the biggest sequence of the game, came a few minutes later (under 5:00 to go). Starting at the Gopher 28, DeMorrett completed four straight passes for a total of 43 yards. Up until that point, he was 6 for 22 and had yet to complete back-to-back passes. Still, with 4:19 left, Caledonia faced a 4th and six from the Chat 29. DeMorrett’s toss to the right was errand, but pass interference was called (a critical whistle). It kept the Warrior drive alive. Six plays later, DeMorrett punched the ball into the end zone from one yard away. With 2:11 left, Caledonia led 19-18. The game was then sealed on the third play of the Goph’s ensuing drive. Nate Skare tried to throw a screen, but it was intercepted by Warrior d-lineman Jacob Nielsen. And that was all she wrote. By a final of 19-18, the defending champs snuck out a victory.

Gopher fans can point to the (questionable) pass interference call (and probably rightfully so), but the boys of the Chosen Valley shot themselves in the foot on special teams and in the turnover department. On top of the punter-first-down play, Chatfield missed three extra points and a field goal. The Gophers also had five turnovers (to Caledonia’s one). Take away one of those miscues and the Gophers probably win. Take away half of those miscues, and they win with room to spare. Chatfield out-gained Caledonia 404 to 249 including holding a 290 to 80 edge on the ground. Chatfield’s lines controlled the trenches.

Tailback Jake Neis started his senior year brilliantly. The elusive 5’10” 185-pounder was the best player on the field, carrying the ball 22 times for 187 yards and 2 TD’s. Gopher junior wide receiver Drew Hurley also made plays, catching three passes for 79 yards. DeMorrett was the Warriors gutty hero. He completed just 13 of 32 attempts for 130 yards, a TD, and INT, whilst rushing for another score. However, he came up big when Caledonia needed it, leading the Warriors on the game-winning scoring drive. Sam Schulte caught four passes for 79 yards and a TD, Adam Buttell five passes for 51 yards all in the second half. Feel free to set your calendar for a re-match for the Section title in October.


8-25 > Rushford Peterson 28, Southland 20 (R-P: frosh Noah Carlson 8 touches, 224 yards, 78-yd TD run (< 0:10 to go in first half), 88-yd KOR TD; Cole Kingsley 2 rushing TDs. Trojans led 28-12 at the half. With 1:36, Rebels pulled to 28-20. They then recovered an onside. A sack on 4th down ended the drive/game at the R-P 17. Mean green was penalized 17 times for well over 100 yards)

> Kingsland 12, Wabasha-Kellogg 47 (Falcons led 47-0 before Knights got on board in 4th)

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