The Mabel-Canton Cougars, ranked No. 6 in Class 1A state volleyball polls, played in two conference matches and a tournament last week. With three weeks left in the regular season, the Cougars have already set their sights on the playoffs, working out alternative rotations and fine-tuning both the offense and defense to cope with whatever type of opponents they may face.

Mabel-Canton (W) at Spring Grove 25-12, 27-29, 25-15, 25-22

The Cougars won two sets, 25-12 and 25-15, but in-between lost an overtime thriller 29-27 to the home team, and were pushed until the end to avoid a fifth set. Spring Grove led 16-15 in the fourth set when three straight Cougar kills put M-C ahead 18-16 on the way to a three-point winning margin. For Spring Grove, it was the first set they've won from Mabel-Canton in 42 matches.

The Lions hit better than they had in their earlier match at M-C, but the Cougars still hit with 20 percent efficiency to 6 percent for Spring Grove. The error count in the match was fairly close (SG 39, M-C 32), but the Cougars had 54 kills to 34 for the Lions. Spring Grove did manage a 7-1 edge in scoring blocks and served 95 percent, their second best of the season.

M-C also hit better than in the teams' previous match, receiving 16 kills from Belle Sand and 15 from Lydia Geving. Cougar serving reached 92 percent, paced by Christy Welscher who went 27 for 27 with a match-high 4 aces. Setter Carly McCabe put up 38 assists, put away 6 kills and recorded 27 digs. Sand dug out 23. Kristina Mengis had 6 kills and 5 assists. Christine Lee got 14 digs, 2 assists, and 2 aces.

The Cougars appeared unbeatable with an 11-1 start in set one, which they won easily 25-12. Just when it appeared to be another M-C runaway, Spring Grove made a remarkable recovery. The Lions led the second set 11-3, but the Cougars regained the lead with an 11-point run. Spring Grove then put together a 10-1 run that had them serving for the match at 25-24. Each team would serve at set point twice before it ended 29-27 with two kills by Solberg.

Oddly enough, the Lions had their most efficient hitting (17 percent) in set three, but so did M-C... twice as good at 34 percent. The Cougars breezed through the set 25-15.

Just when the Cougars appeared to have taken complete control, Spring Grove refused to surrender. The Lions battled to the end, falling 25-22 in the final set.

Undefeated in league play, the state-ranked (No. 6) Cougars improved to 17-4 with all losses coming against other state-ranked squads. Spring Grove slipped to 9-9 (4-3 SEC). M-C also won a competitive B team match 2-0.

For Spring Grove, Nicki Ellingson had a team-high 10 kills with no errors along with two ace blocks. In addition to 25 set assists, senior setter Addison Cross also scored 12 points with 7 kills and only one error plus a match-high 4 ace blocks and a service ace. Tara Solberg put down 9 kills. Aly Folz returned from illness and served 19 for 20 with 2 aces.

"They served tough and kept a lot of balls alive that most teams would not be able to. It was a good conference win on the road," M-C coach Lonnie Morken said.

Mabel-Canton (W) vs. Houston 25-11, 25-12, 25-22

The Cougars defeated the Hurricanes in straight sets two days later.

"We played quite solid the first two sets," Morken said. "We were able to jump ahead early in the first set behind some strong serving and hitting. The second set was quite even until Christine Lee went on an 8 point service run midway through the set. In the third set we experimented with a different line-up to get ready for our weekend tournament at Pierz. We were able to do just enough (in that set) to win."

Sand led the attack with 12 kills and three service aces. Welscher put away seven kills, 1 ace serve, and two ace blocks. Geving had six kills and three service aces. Christine Lee also had three aces and was the dig leader with 14. McCabe set up 28 assists and had nine digs. Sand dug out 7.

Pierz Invitational Tournament

On Saturday, Sept. 29, the Cougars headed for the home of the Pierz Pioneers, going 5-1 on the day and taking second place in the tournament.

They defeated Saint Cloud Cathedral 25-15, 25-20, Swanville 25-5, 25-15, Long Prairie-Grey Eagle 25-16, 25-18, Pierz 25-16, 25-18, and Mounds View 25-18, 25-14.

The re-match with the 6AA team from Long Prairie-Grey Eagle resulted in a 17-25, 19-25 loss.

"I was very proud of how we did at the Pierz tournament," Morken said. "We knew going in that we would play some very good teams and we would be without Lydia Geving who was in a wedding. We had three girls take turns in the front row: Payton Bergey, Kourtney Coyle and Sara Vettleson-Trutza. Coranda Vickerman played back row. All four did just fine. In fact, Coranda led the team in ace serves. I thought our blocking was very much improved and our defense and offense is starting to get quicker and sharper."

Eighth-grader Vickerman made 49 of 54 serves with 7 aces. Sand, Welscher and Lee had 6 ace serves each. Sand attacked 96 times on the day, scoring 57 kills. Other kill leaders were Welscher (20), McCabe (18), Lind (17), and Mengis (15). McCabe had 108 assists. Welscher led in ace blocks, with 7. Lind had 5 ace blocks. On defense, Sand had 55 digs, while Lee recorded 37. McCabe and Vickerman had 27 digs each.

Up next:

The Cougars were scheduled to host Glennville-Emmons on Oct. 2. On Oct. 4, they travel to Lyle/Pacelli. On Oct. 9 another match with Lanesboro is scheduled, this time in the Burros' home court. Hope Lutheran visits Mabel-Canton on Oct. 11.

Southeast Conference 2012

conf. season

VOLLEYBALL W L W L T

EAST

Mabel-Canton* 8 - 0 23- 5 - 0

Spring Grove 5 - 3 10- 9 - 0

Houston 5 - 3 7 -14 - 0

Hope Lutheran 2 - 6 5 -11 - 0

Lanesboro 1 - 7 1 -12 - 0

WEST

LeRoy-Ost.* 6 - 2 9 - 3 - 0

Grand Meadow 5 - 3 10- 9 - 0

Lyle/Pacelli 5 - 3 7 - 9 - 0

Glenville-Emm. 3 - 5 4 - 9 - 0

Schaeffer Ac. 0 - 8 0 -14- 0

* defending champion