Seeded number two in Subsection 1A East, part of the toughest Class A section in the state, Mabel-Canton defeated two talented opponents on Thursday and Saturday, setting the stage for a matchup with a team that has been near the top of the polls all year on Thursday.

October 25: M-C (W) vs. Lewiston-Altura 25-15, 25-19, 25-19

Six early errors by Mabel-Canton gave the Cardinals the opportunity to make a run at their host, but the Cougars roared back to take the first set by 10 points. L-A did make a run in set two, closing from an 18-8 deficit to 23-19, only to lose the last two points. In the third set, M-C jumped to a 20-12 margin before outlasting the 'Cards.

"We played very sharp at times and then not so sharp, but did enough to win," M-C coach Lonnie Morken said later. "We lacked focus at times and discipline."

The Cougars struggled with L-A blocking, which Morken said was due primarily to taller players than most M-C has faced this season.

Lydia Geving had 11 kills and five service aces in the win. Christy Welscher blasted nine kills, served two aces, and made two ace blocks. Belle Sand led in digs with 11. Christine Lee dug nine times. Setter Carly McCabe contributed 25 assists and eight digs, along with five kills. Sara Lind had six kills and 1.5 ace blocks. Kristina Mengis had five kills.

October 27: M-C (W) vs. Fillmore Central 31-33, 20-25, 25-18, 25-14, 16-14

"It's games like this we coach for and players play for," Morken said of the five-set semifinal marathon. "We had our backs against the wall. Things weren't going our way and we had many chances to give up and quit fighting the fight."

"We lost a heartbreaking first set, then our serve receive kind of fell apart in the second set to put us in an 0-2 hole. We then proceeded to fall behind 9-2. We weren't playing very good volleyball and a lot of that had to do with how well FC was playing."

After two and one-half sets had put the Cougars on the ropes, Welscher made a game-changing series of serves. M-C went from being down 11-5 to taking a 13-12 lead.

"We went on to finish that set off 25-18 before playing a near flawless fourth set winning 25-14," Morken reported.

The deciding fifth set was close from start to finish. The Falcons led 12-10 when Sand blasted a key kill. Tied at 14-all, McCabe dumped the ball for the 15th point. Match point was scored on an FC error.

"They are a tremendous team with one of the finest players in the state in Taylor Case," Morken noted. "With only one senior they will be very good the next two seasons as well. I hope our girls will take many life lessons away from this match!"

The Cougars took awhile adjusting to FC blocking, which added to their error count, Morken added. Relying on defense to stay in the match, M-C had five players record double-digit dig totals. As the match began to turn their way, blocking by Cougar players improved.

Sand led with 20 kills. McCabe got nine while setting 39 times. Geving had eight kills. Mengis blasted seven, while Welscher and Lind each finished off five kill shots. Sand and McCabe each had 19 digs. Geving dug 17 times and Libero Lee did her job, digging a team-high 24 times. Danielle Paul dug 11 times. Welscher led in ace serves, with four. Welscher led in ace blocks, with five.

The road ahead doesn't get any easier. As a matter of fact, M-C probably has the toughest path of any volleyball team to reach the state tournament. Wabasha-Kellogg has been ranked number one in state coaches' polls for most of the season, and is currently ranked number two in the state. Mabel-Canton is ranked number seven in the same poll.

M-C will meet the W-K Falcons in the sub-section finals on Thursday, Nov. 1, at 6 p.m. at Mayo Civic Center. If the Cougars can defeat W-K, they would face the winner of the Bethlehem Academy/Medford match for the section championship. BA is currently ranked number one in the statewide coaches' poll.

Morken summed it up following the victory over FC. "As excited as we are with this win, we do realize we will have to play better to compete with W-K," he said.