Cougar netters should once again be a team to watch in the Southeast Conference (SEC) and post-season tournament play. Last year, they posted an overall record of 31-6, finally losing to Wabasha-Kellogg in the sub-section finals.
Head coach Lonnie Morken begins his 20th season with a record of 490-102, including 15 consecutive conference titles (including 2012), nine sub-section crowns and two section championships. He’s received the Section Coach of the Year Award eight times.
Morken is joined by assistant coach Bethany Moen and junior high coach Susie Munroe.
Returning starters include seniors Belle Sand, Lydia Geving, Carly McCabe, Christine Lee and Sara Lind. Sand and Geving played as outside hitters last season, while McCabe checked in at setter. Lee played libero and Lind was a middle hitter.
Other returning letterwinners are senior Kourtney Coyle, juniors Hannah Nolte and Sara Vettleson-Trutza and ninth grader Coranda Vickerman. Joining the varsity team this year is eighth grader Savannah Slafter, ninth grader Courtney Graves and juniors Danielle Graves and Ashlyn Dahl.
“Sand, Geving and McCabe have all played varsity volleyball since eighth grade,” Morken reported. “Sand is the three-time SEC player of the year and been all-state twice.”
Geving is a two-time All-SEC selection, as is McCabe. Lee earned Honorable Mention on the All-SEC list last season. Lind won the Most Improved Player award last year in team voting.
A few statistics on some members of the senior class: Sand has 998 career kills and 1,148 career digs. Geving is already the career leader in ace serves (382) and has 919 career digs and 751 career kills. McCabe has 1,790 career assists and 800 career digs.
Besides the aforementioned five seniors, two juniors and a freshman will be in the starting lineup. “It is early in the season, but it appears that Vickerman, Vettleson-Trutza and Nolte will be rounding out our rotation,” Morken said.
“Experience will be our strength, but our depth and lack of height will be weaknesses. It certainly is nice returning five starters and nine letterwinners, but if we have an injury or two it could be devastating.”
Morken added that SEC opponents Spring Grove in the East and LeRoy-Ostrander and Lyle/Pacelli in the West will vie for top spots with M-C this year.
“Strong teams in our sub-section will be Fillmore Central, Goodhue, W-K (Wabasha-Kellogg) and L-A (Lewiston-Altura),” he noted. “Faribault BA (Bethlehem Academy, Class A state champs in 2012) remains the section favorite. We will once again be the strongest subsection and section in the state, in my opinion,” Morken added.
“Our outlook could be good. We potentially could be moving some players around if it makes us a stronger team,” Morken concluded. “If that happens and the girls accept their roles, we could be very good again this year. We also must stay injury free.”
The team begins play on Tuesday, Aug. 27, at LeRoy-Ostrander and will host Spring Grove two days later. Note the Spring Grove game will be held at Mabel-Canton, which is a change from the original schedule.