After taking third place at state last year, including rallying from down 2-1 for a 3-2 win in their last match, Mabel-Canton’s 2023 experience was just a tad below their 2022 trip. Instead of rallying from down 2-1 for a 3-2 in the third-place match, they almost rallied from down 2-1 for a 3-2 win in the third-place match. They fell narrowly and were disappointed. But it was a great season. And with no seniors, there is definitely next year.
Balance and Serving Lead to Quarterfinal Sweep of BGMR
Second-ranked Mabel-Canton (Section 1A Champ, 3-seed, 35-1) started its state adventure by facing unseeded and unranked Badger-Greenbush-Middle River (Section 8A Champ, 24-5) in the quarters. M-C trailed just twice in the entire match (8-7 and 9-8 in set three). They did not allow the Gators to get to 20 points in posting a 3-0 sweep (25-16, 25-15, 25-18). The Cougars out-aced BGMR 8-2 and spread the hitting wealth around with four girls getting at least six kills; Kinley Soiney (12 kills, 6 digs, 3 ace blocks), Kailey Ingvalson (9 kills, 6 digs), Tylar Wenthold (8 kills on .438 hitting), and Saijal Slafter (6 kills). Sahara Morken (37 assists, 11 digs, 19-19 serving, 3 aces) was all over. Lydia Vatland (16 digs) led the defensive effort. BGMR was led by Kenzie Dahl (10 kills, 13 digs) and Zairyn Wimpfheimer (26 assists, 14 digs).
Different Year, Same Result in Semifinals Versus Mayer Lutheran
In the semifinals, #2 M-C (36-1) hooked up with #4 Mayer Lutheran (Section 2A Champ, 2-seed 27-6). The teams played in last year’s state semifinals with the Crusaders winning 3-1 (25-15, 14-25, 17-25, 13-25). M-C played Mayer Lutheran in the Class A Showcase semifinals earlier this year, winning 2-0 (25-21, 25-23). But Lonnie Morken’s group got treated like state in 2022. Mayer Lutheran was emphatic in the first set, starting 7-2 and never trailing in a 25-14 win. M-C rallied in game two. The Crusaders’ serve receive faltered toward the end of the set, as the Cougars got three aces in four points, turning a 17-14 lead into a 21-16 edge. M-C prevailed 25-19. But Mayer Lutheran then again controlled a set, game three. It was close to 25 total points, Crusaders leading 13-12. But they then notched 12 of the next 14 for a 25-14 win. M-C had just two digs in the set, as the ML hit home 14 kills (on .706 hitting) and scored with four aces. The Cougars then scratched and clawed in game four. However, the M-L All-State sister combo of Marley Martin and Danica Martin were a duo the Cougars could not stop. Danica had three straight kills as part of a 4-0 run that broke a 13-13 tie and gave the Crusaders a 17-13 lead. Mayer later led 20-16, but M-C got a pair of Ava Jacobsen aces in succession as part of a 3-0 run that cut the edge to 20-19. The junior had five aces for the match on 16-16 serving. But a Danica Martin kill ended the run. And ML scored three straight for a 23-19 lead. A Marley Martin kill ended the match. M-L took the fourth set 25-21, and the match 3-1 (25-14, 19-25, 25-14, 25-21). Kinley Soiney (21 kills, 8 digs) led the Cougars on “O.” Morken (38 assists, 19 digs) had a team-high dig total while leading the offense. Saijal Slafter added 10 (kills) and 7 (digs). Lydia Vatland chipped in 11 digs. Mayer got a trio of players to double-digit kills; D-Martin (20 kills on .415 hitting, 9 digs), M-Martin (13 kills on .278 hitting), and Mari Buhr (10 kills). ML out-killed M-C 53 to 40 as they hit .285 as a team to M-C’s .110. All-State setter Izabelle Keaveny (44 assists, 9 digs, 15-15 serving, 3 aces) and Clara Keaveny (24 digs) also did big work for the Crusaders. M-L had 76 digs to M-C’s 60. The Cougars did have 11 aces to M-L’s nine.
Cougars Fall Just Short Versus New Life in Third Place Match
After falling in the semifinals, Mabel-Canton (36-2) had to rally the next day for the third-place match with unranked and unseeded New Life Academy (Section 4A Champ, 21-11). And they did so quite effectively in set one. A 7-7 tie was turned during an Ava Jacobsen four-point service session, as M-C went ahead 12-7. They then cruised to a game one 25-14 win behind Kinley Soiney’s nine kills. The Cougars then jumped out good again in game two, up 14-9. But the match then turned. The Eagles started playing better, getting the ball to their triad of hitters Makenna Lilly, Arianna Thomey, and Marisa Michaelis, plus utilizing 6’2” middle hitter Makenzie Anderstrom. The match turned into a battle. The Eagles went on an 11-2 run to build a 20-16 lead. Ella Brennan authored a seven-point service session and Anderstrom had two blocks in the span. M-C could not recover and fell 25-21. The Cougars then seemingly were in control of set three, up 23-19 following a Soiney kill. But NLA ended the set by scoring seven of the final eight points. When M-C’s Soiney is not in the front row, the Cougars struggle to pound down shots. And when Soiney is in the front row, she garners a lot of attention. That truth was evident late (and a key ingredient in the match). Meanwhile, NLA got kills from Lilly, Michaelis and Anderstrom, then Lilly and Michalis again. They stole the game 26-24 for the 2-1 lead, as Lilly had seven kills in the set. In set four, the teams again went back-and-forth, M-C trying to thwart NLA’s stronger tri-faced hitting attack with passing, defense, and Soiney. NLA trying to thwart Soiney and play defense to get into system for strong attacks. The game had 13 ties. NLA led 17-14, but M-C tied it at 18. After ties at 19, 21, 22, and 23, Soiney found holes for two shots and sent the match to five sets by 25-23 final! In the last set, at the end of it all, NLA’s big players came up big. The Cougars led 12-9. But the Eagles then had a 4-0 run, as Lilly had two kills, she combined with Anderstrom for a block of Soiney, and Michaelis scored with a kill. The spurt put NLA up 13-12. Soiney evened it with a tip kill, but Lilly blasted a shot off a block out of bounds and Michaelis ended it. The Cougars fell 3-2 (25-14, 21-25, 24-26, 25-23, 13-15) in a match with 29 total ties. Sahara Morken (60 assists, 30 digs, 23-23 serving) had the ever-rare 60-30 effort, majorly helped by Soiney (32 kills, 17 digs). Kailey Ingvalson (15 kills, 14 digs) and Saijal Slafter (15 kills, 15 digs) also had double-doubles. Lydia Vatland added 24 digs. Lilly (22 kills on .231 hitting) had 13 kills over the last two sets. Michaelis (16 kills on .333 hitting) and Twomey (16 kills) helped on “O.” Their defensive effort was keyed by setter Annika Haak (50 assists, 28 digs), libero Rylee DaCosta (11 assists, 25 digs), and Brennan (21 digs). NLA had 118 digs, M-C 114! Each team hit roughly the same, M-C .197, NLA .194. But Anderstrom’s blocking effort (5 kills, 9 total blocks) was a key. M-C beat New Life Academy at the Class A Showcase 2-1 (16-25, 25-21, 15-8) earlier this year. The Cougars’ season ends at 36-3. They tie last year’s squad (also 36-3) for most wins in school history. It is their eighth 30-win season the past decade. They bring home another SEC-East title, their second straight 1A title, and the state fourth place trophy. The squad has no seniors. Next year will a year of expectations, as the junior class of Morken, Slafter, Vatland, Jacobsen, Ingvalson, Hope Erickson and Lainey Hosting, plus the sophomore Soiney, take one more crack at it. Morken (135 assists, 60 digs) was named to the Class A All-Tourney team. She recorded her 1,000th career dig at state.