Ten years after the teams met for a 1A final (2013), Fillmore Central and Mabel-Canton did so again. Both teams battled hard to get there. The finals match was then an anti-climactic sweep after a wild week of action.
Cougars Trek Through Goodhue, Defend Past Upstart Alden-Conger in Five Sets
Defending 1A champ #2 Mabel-Canton (1-seed, 32-1) downed Goodhue (9-seed, 12-13) in the quarters. After the Cougars took set one handily 25-13 and led game two 20-6, there was never really a feeling the Wildcats could win. But the Cougars never stomped the ‘Cats out. M-C won game two 25-20; Goodhue won 14 of the final 19 points. M-C jumped out 8-1 in game three, but the lead was trimmed to 16-15. Lonnie Morken’s crew shut the door for the 25-20 win, the 3-0 sweep (25-13, 25-20, 25-20). Kinley Soiney (17 kills, 3 ½ blocks), Sahara Morken (33 assists, 8 digs, 17-18 serving, 2 aces), and Saijal Slafter (10 kills, 10 digs) led the way. Kailey Ingvalson (4 kills, 7 digs) helped. Goodhue was led by Ellie Peterson (12 kills) and setter Elisabeth Gadient (4 kills, 17 assists). M-C (1-seed, 33-1) then faced Alden-Conger (5-seed, 24-5) in a 1A semifinal. The Knights downed 4-seed Spring Grove 3-2 in the quarters. M-C got a dogfight. The Cougars led game one 13-10 only for A-C to score nine of the next 11 points for a 19-15 lead. M-C then closed to down one four times but fell 25-22. In game two, the Cougars trailed 12-9 but scored five in a row (three straight Soiney kills) for a 14-12 lead. The set then had three ties but M-C trailed just once (16-17). Soiney pounded down the final three points for the 25-20 win. In game three, M-C led at the beginning and at the end. Down 24-20, A-C scored three straight to make it 24-23, but Soiney then iced it. M-C went ahead 2-1 via the 25-23 win. But the Knights, who played the Cougars 3-1 (25-14, 32-30, 25-27, 25-14) in last year’s quarters, kept fighting with a varied attack. After M-C jumped out 7-2 in game four, A-C reeled them in. They tied the set at 16, then scored nine of the final 11 for a 25-18 victory, forcing a fifth game! In the final set, the Cougars defense did work with 16 digs to A-C’s nine. Leading 10-9, M-C’s big-game experience won out. They scored the last five points and moved into their fourth 1A final in the last five played post-seasons by 3-2 victory (22-25, 25-20, 25-23, 18-25, 15-9). Soiney (34 kills, 10 digs) and Slafter (24 kills, 14 digs, 3 aces) supplied 58 of M-C’s 73 kills! Morken (66 assists, 18 digs, 25-26 serving, 4 aces) surpassed 1,000 assists for the season with her season-high effort. Ingvalson (5 kills, 20 digs), Ava Jacobsen (16 digs), and Lydia Vatland (12 digs) were key on defense. Tylar Wenthold chipped in 6 (kills) and 8 (digs). A-C was led by Cearra Grunzke (21 kills, 16 digs), Madison Hendrickson (55 assists, 11 digs), and Ellen Merkouris (30 digs). Alyvia Newman (12 kills, 16 digs), Macy Mattson (12 kills, 3 blks), and Ashley Newman (11 kills, 3 aces) gave them great balance.
Falcons Slip Past B.A., Post Impressive Win Over K-W
Fillmore Central’s route to the 1A finals featured probably their two biggest wins since 2014. The #7 Falcons (3-seed, 21-7) took on last year’s 1A runner-up Faribault B.A. (6-seed, 14-14) in the quarterfinals’ wildest match. FC easily could have lost. They rescued victory from near defeat multiple times. The Cardinals had their chances. It started in game one. B.A. led 20-14. The Falcons then scored the final 11 points. Sophomore Kyla Hellickson served the last 10. Rescuing victory from defeat, FC prevailed 25-20. Game two then had 16 ties, the last at 24-24. Back-to-back Falcon errors led B.A. to a 26-24 set win, a 1-1 match. The Cardinals then took control of game three about midway, posting a 25-16 win. FC looked up at a 2-1 deficit. In game four, the Falcons led 17-9. B.A. then rattled off 10 straight points! They went ahead 19-17 and later led 24-21. FC then again rescued victory from defeat. They resiliently staved off four match points (24-21, 24-22, 24-23, 25-24). With it 25-25, Hellickson served an ace. Alyssa Britton followed with a block. FC prevailed 27-25! Travis Malley’s group then led game five 9-5 before B.A. scored five straight! FC staved off defeat twice more at down 14-12 and 14-13. A block by Annika Mensink got the Falcons to even. Top hitter Kammry Broadwater was then at left side. She put down the final two points for the stunning victory. The Falcons moved to their first 1A semifinal since 2014 courtesy of a 3-2 win (25-20, 24-26, 16-25, 27-25, 16-14). Broadwater (23 kills, 16 digs, 23-23 serving) and Hellickson (8 assists, 26-27 serving, 3 aces, 33 digs) led the way. Britton (13 kills), Ella Dahly (10 kills), Izzy Nagel (8 kills, 9 digs), Mensink (8 kills, 3 ace blocks), and Lily Miller (16 digs, 13-13 serving, 3 aces) helped. Aubrey Daniels (28 assists, 13 digs) and Katie Pickett (27 assists, 18 digs) split the setting. B.A. was led by Sydney Dienst (19 kills, 25 digs), Anna Cohen (53 assists, 18 digs), and Claire Wisdo (34 digs). A year ago, versus Spring Grove in the quarters, FC led 2-1 but fell 3-2. It was FC’s third win over B.A. this year. They beat them 2-0 at the Class A Showcase and at the Chaska Tourneys. FC (3-seed, 22-7) then took on #5 Kenyon-Wanamingo (2-seed, 25-2) in the semis. The Knights bested FC 2-1 at the Class A Showcase. The Falcons blasted the Knights in set one. Broadwater scored as many points via kill as the K-W had as a team. Britton had five aces, including three right out of the gate, in a 25-6 win. The victory set a tone. A tight game two then saw the Falcons trail 24-21. They again fought off three set points and got back to even. Seniors Broadwater (two kills) and Britton (kill, ace) scored the final four points. FC went ahead 2-0 via a 27-25 win! The Knights then led game three the entire way including by as many as eight. Four straight Broadwater kills helped FC tie it at 15. K-W ultimately prevailed 25-20, but FC’s comeback helped halt the Knights’ momentum. The Falcons then jumped out 9-3 and led the duration of set four. FC flew around defensively to get their terminator Broadwater to terminating position, an effort keyed by Hellickson and Miller. Up 24-17, Broadwater took eight swings before finally scoring point #25 (B.A. closed to 24-21). Moving to its first section title game since 2014, FC prevailed 3-1 (25-6, 27-25, 20-25, 25-21). Stand-out seniors Broadwater (31 kills, 17 digs) and Britton (14 kills, 31-31 serving, 10 aces) led FC. Broadwater surpassed 1,000 career spikes. Hellickson (34 digs) and Miller (23 digs) led the defensive effort. Daniels (31 assists, 13 digs) and Pickett (20 assists) split the setting. K-W was led by Carmen Nerison (24 assists, 19 digs), Norah Rechtzigel (9 kills, 3.5 blks), Josie Flom (9 kills, 15 digs), and Rachel Ryan (33 digs). The Knights failed to get a player to 10 kills. They were out-killed 57 to 34 and out-aced 13 to 7.
Cougars Sweep Falcons in Anti-Climactic 1A Final
After M-C had to scratch and claw to beat A-C 3-2, and FC had to scratch and claw to beat B.A. 3-2, and play very well to top K-W 3-1, the finals match between the two teams had less drama. The Cougars won in a sweep with no game-points staved off and very little late game tension. A 4-0 M-C spurt put them ahead 17-14 in game one. With the Cougar edge 18-17, M-C had another 4-0 spurt to lead 22-17. It propelled them to a 25-19 win. Game two, and the match itself, was then decided in one stretch of volleyball later in the set. FC led 17-15, but gave up a 7-0 run. Included in the spurt were two Ava Jacobsen aces. M-C later led 24-19 before FC made a mini-run to close to down 24-21. But a Falcon service error then ended the momentum and the set. And up 2-0, the defending 1A champion Cougars took game three handily 25-13 for the 3-0 sweep (25-19, 25-22, 25-13). After years of falling in 1A title games, Lonnie Morken’s teams’ have taken two back-to-back. They are headed back to state! Both teams spread it around offensively, a departure from the teams’ semifinal wins. Kinley Soiney (14 kills, 14 digs) led M-C. Recently back in the line-up Hope Erickson (7 kills), Saijal Slafter (7 kills, 12 digs) and Kailey Ingvalson (6 kills, 10 digs) helped. Sahara Morken (3 kills, 31 assists, 15 digs) set the table. M-C out-aced FC 7 to 3. Kammry Broadwater (10 kills, 7 digs) led FC, helped by Annika Mensink (8 kills) and Elly Dahly (6 kills). Aubrey Daniels (13 assists, 12 digs) and Katie Pickett (17 assists, 8 digs) split the setting. Kyla Hellickson (22 digs) and Lily Miller (11 digs) did back-line work. It is only FC’s third volleyball section title game in 31 years. The Falcons finish an excellent season at 23-8 as 1A runner-up. It is their most wins since 2014’s 1A runner-up (24-8). Four-year contributors Broadwater and Britton, plus Pickett and Esme Gastfield, are FC’s seniors. Senior-less M-C (35-1) heads back to state. The junior-laden Cougs are seeded third, will face Badger/Greenbush-Middle River (24-8).