The top 50 teams of the fall from 2010-2019 continues. As before, squads from the “Journal 10” – FC, R-P, Chatfield, Kingsland, M-C, Houston, Lanesboro, GM, SG, and L-O, are eligible. Ranking across different years, and involving teams from three different sports, is difficult and thus subject to debate. Ranking is by how far teams made it in the play-offs. Teams 40 down to 36 see Lonnie Morken’s Mabel-Canton volleyball program take center stage. The Cougars had five 1A East runner-ups in the decade. All five won either the SEC out-right or East Division titles. They minimally won 28 matches. Each time they fell in the play-offs, it was to very good teams.
#40) Mabel-Canton 2014
It was the one year in the decade when Lonnie Morken had to nearly completely retool his squad. A year previously, he and Cougar fans watched a splendid group of seniors (that led teams #39 and #36 on this list) graduate. Included was four-time SEC Player of the Year Belle Sand. How did M-C respond with just one pure returning All-SEC player and a very young team? They won their own Labor Day Tourney and competed at the Class A Showcase, making the upper Gold Bracket. The Cougars went 14-0 in the SEC, taking the East title. They were 29-4 heading to the play-offs, grabbing 1A East’s top seed. Three of their losses came at the Showcase. After beating Schaeffer Academy and Rushford-Peterson in the play-offs, M-C ran into rival Fillmore Central again in the 1A East finals. It was the schools’ third meeting in three years at Mayo Civic Center. It was the only of the three that wasn’t super competitive. The Falcons won a 3-0 sweep, ending M-C’s season at 31-5. FC fell to B.A. in the 1A finals. Making All-SEC for the Cougars in 2014 were sophomore Coranda Vickerman (setter > 951 assists, 265 digs, 75 aces), senior Sara Vettleson-Trutza (OH > 325 kills, 196 digs), freshman Savannah Slafter (OH > 275 kills, 267 digs), and sophomore Courtney Graves (MH > 245 kills). Vickerman was SEC Player of the Year. Eighth grader Lexi Thorson (356 digs, 57 aces) made All-SEC Honorable Mention. As a result of his squad not really skipping a beat despite a big graduation, Morken was Section 1A Coach of the Year.
#39) Mabel-Canton 2012
It was the team that precedes maybe M-C’s best team of the decade. In 2012, the Cougars were led by the junior class of Belle Sand, Carly McCabe, Lydia Geving, Sara Lind, and Christine Lee, and seniors Christy Welscher and Kristina Mengis. It was a good group that went 29-5 in the regular season. Three of the Cougars losses were at the Class A Showcase including two to eventual Class A State Runner-Up Southwest Christian. Another loss came to Caledonia (27-7) in the regular season. The Warriors went on to be Class AA State Runner-Up. The Cougars swept through their own Labor Day Tourney, not losing a set. They swept through their SEC schedule, losing just one set and won the East-West Showcase game 3-1 over LeRoy-Ostrander. M-C’s biggest win of the year came in the 1A East semifinals, when they came back from a 2-0 deficit (and substantially trailing in game three), to post a 3-2 (31-33, 20-25, 25-18, 25-14, 16-14) win over Fillmore Central (26-6). The Cougars then bowed to W-K (30-3) in the 1A East finals. The Falcons-North fell to eventual State Champion Faribault B.A. in the section final, in a year that may have been the decade’s most high-end competitive for Section 1A. M-C was SEC-East champion and finished at 31-6. Sand (OH > 352 kills, 344 digs, 61 aces) earned her third All-SEC honor, her third SEC Player of the Year Award. She was also All-State Honorable Mention. McCabe (setter > 137 kills, 823 assists, 248 digs), Geving (OH > 185 kills, 203 digs, 76 aces), Welscher (MH > 173 kills), and Mengis (RH > 135 kills) also earned All-SEC. Christine Lee (libero > 316 digs) was All-SEC Honorable Mention. The win versus FC is probably the biggest volleyball comeback of the decade. This M-C team also started an eight-year span (that continues to this day) where the Cougars have appeared in a 1A East title game.
#38) Mabel-Canton 2016
The 2016 M-C Cougar volleyball team entered the season coming off its first 1A final appearance of the decade. Lonnie Morken’s group in 2015 went 35-3 and fell to Faribault B.A. in the section finals. With a full cupboard back including four All-SEC players, M-C again had hopes. They went 15-0 to start the season, winning their own Labor Day Tourney. The Cougars didn’t drop a set in that span. Three of their four regular season losses came at the Class A Showcase. M-C then won the Brainerd Tourney in October. The Cougars swept through the SEC, winning the SEC-East, not dropping a set and beating Grand Meadow 3-1 in the East-West Showcase game. They were 29-5 heading into the play-offs. In the 1A semifinals, M-C pulled maybe the second biggest clutch comeback win of the decade (see team #39 for the top turn-around). The Cougars trailed Fillmore Central (18-10). They were down 2-0 before engineering a 3-2 comeback win (22-25, 18-25, 25-21, 25-20, 15-12). The big “W” put M-C in the 1A East finals again. Their opponent was the team the Cougars beat 3-2 in 2015 to get to the 1A championship match, Caledonia. Correcting a number of hitting errors from the teams’ meeting a year previously, the Warriors powered through M-C 3-0. They then beat Hayfield to clinch a berth at state, where the Warriors finished at Class A Runner-Up (30-6). M-C’s year concluded at 32-5. Senior Coranda Vickerman (setter/OH > 481 assists, 371 kills, 267 digs, 66 aces) led M-C’s cast, earning All-SEC for a fourth straight year. She was also Class A All-State for a second time. Over a five-year career, she went 162-22. She finished with 2,414 assists, 1,069 digs, 668 kills, and 319 aces. Savannah Slafter (junior OH > 382 kills, 252 digs, 70 aces) earned All-SEC for a third year. She was SEC Player of the Year and Class A All-State Honorable Mention. M-C’s two other All-SEC picks were sophomores Lexi Thorson (libero > 277 digs, 81 digs) and Maddy Michels (MH > 151 kills). Senior Courtney Graves was All-SEC HM (setter/MH > 113 kills, 220 assists).
#37) Mabel-Canton 2017
Oddly, the 2017 squad is the only M-C volleyball team of the decade to not win 30 matches. But a 28-6 mark is a record a majority of high school volleyball teams never get close to. The Cougars entered coming off the 2016 season where they lost to Caledonia in the 1A East finals. M-C graduated all-everything setter Coranda Vickerman, so it was a season where someone new took the offensive reigns. The Cougars went from All-State setter to another (future), Kenidi McCabe. M-C returned all-league picks Savannah Slafter (All-State HM, SEC Player of the Year), Lexi Thorson, and Maddy Michels. They started the year 18-0, winning their own Labor Day Tourney, before falling thrice at the Class A Showcase. M-C got pushed by Spring Grove in a regular season match, but won 3-2. They went undefeated in SEC play (14-0) and beat Grand Meadow in the East-West Showcase match 3-0. The play-offs were tough. M-C beat a good L-A team 3-1 in the quarterfinals and a good FC squad 3-1 in the 1A East semifinals. Lurking in the 1A East finals was Caledonia. The Warriors had swept M-C a year previously in the same spot. Behind Adrianna Reinhart and Madisyn Heaney, Cal (23-9) was again too much. The Cougars took a set but fell 3-1 (25-22, 23-25, 25-22, 25-19). Caledonia then fell to B.A. in the 1A finals 3-1. The season was Savannah Slafter’s swansong. The senior (OH > 274 kills, 216 digs) made All-SEC for a fourth time despite being injured. She finished as one of only two Cougars (Belle Sand) with 1,000 career kills (1,366) and 1,000 career digs (1,039). Also making All-SEC was senior Dakota Delaney (MH > 317 kills). The duo went 126-19 across their last four years of M-C volleyball. Junior Maddy Michels (MH > 207 kills) repeated as All-SEC while frosh Kenidi McCabe (setter > 1,008 assists, 62 aces, 227 digs) earned her first such honor. Making All-SEC HM was sophomore Payton Danielson (OH > 145 kills, 57 aces, 249 digs). This season helped set up the two that followed, Section runner-up squads in 2018 and 2019.
#36) Mabel-Canton 2013
It wasn’t the closest the Cougars ever technically came to getting to state in the 2010s. Three M-C squads made the Section title game including the 2019 incarnation, which came just points away from St. Paul. But it was maybe their best collection of talent, the best team. It was definitely their most senior-laden squad and a group with three future collegiate players on it. The 2013 Cougars were led by an experienced senior clan of Belle Sand, Carly McCabe, Lydia Geving, Sara Lind, and Christine Lee. The fivesome had played tons of high-level volleyball in their careers and, with the 6’1” Lind, actually had some size. As juniors, they made the 1A East finals by coming back from down 2-0 to beat Fillmore Central 3-2. The Cougars had just two regular season losses in 2013, both in the Gold Bracket of the Class A Showcase. M-C fell to Win-E-Mac (31-5), which finished fourth at state, and Southwest Christian (31-5), which was Class A State Champion. The five above seniors didn’t play because they were taking college entrance exams. On the winning end of things, the Cougars won their own Labor Day Tourney (dropping just one set) and the Pierz Tourney (dropping none). They didn’t drop a set in an SEC regular season match, and beat L/P 3-1 in the East-West Showcase game. But in the play-offs, redemption came a calling. Basically the same FC squad that M-C beat as juniors was again their foe in the 1A East finals. The Falcons used that let-down in 2012 as motivation. They moved on to the 1A finals by beating the Cougars 3-1 (25-18, 16-25, 16-25, 19-25). Lonnie Morken’s group finished as 1A East runner-up at 33-3. The loss to FC was their only loss as a full unit all year. FC finished as Class A State Runner-Up. And thus, M-C’s three losses were to number one, number two, and number four finishers at state. Belle Sand (OH > 279 kills, 245 digs, 71 aces) made All-SEC for a fourth time, SEC Player of the Year for a fourth time. She was also Class A All-State and went on to an excellent career at Division I Syracuse, making the Orange all-time record books with her defensive abilities. Carly McCabe (setter > 788 assists, 175 digs) was All-SEC for a third time. She went on to play for a JUCO National Champion RCTC squad. Lydia Geving (214 kills, 203 digs, 104 aces) was also All-SEC for a third time. Sara Lind (235 kills, 84 total blocks), Christine Lee (230 digs), and frosh Coranda Vickerman (167 digs, 89 aces) also were named All-SEC. Lind went on to play college volleyball at St. Mary’s. Sara Vettleson-Trutza (121 kills) was All-SEC HM. The Sand/Geving/McCabe trio ended their five-year careers with a 158-18 record! Sand (1,276) is fourth in M-C history in kills and sixth (1,394) in digs. McCabe is third all-time (2,578) in assists and tenth (969) in digs. Geving is first in aces (487), second (1,199) in points served, sixth (964) in kills, and seventh in digs (1,122). This M-C team is probably actually the second best Journal-10 team to play volleyball in the decade, behind the FC team it lost to in the 1A East final.