Belle Sand, like other members of the 2012 volleyball team, could leap far into the air. Here she meets a player from Wabasha-Kellogg over the net.
Belle Sand, like other members of the 2012 volleyball team, could leap far into the air. Here she meets a player from Wabasha-Kellogg over the net.
When it comes to volleyball, tradition runs deep at Mabel-Canton. The Cougars posted a record of 31-6-0 in 2012, notching the schools' 15th straight conference title.

Even those numbers are a little misleading, since M-C deliberately schedules tough opponents. Two of the losses came to Southwest Christian, the team that finished as state runner-up in Class A. Another loss came to Caledonia, a team that also finished as state runner-up in Class AA. The team that knocked the Cougars out of post-season play, Wabasha-Kellogg, was beaten by the state champion, Bethlehem Academy Eagles.

Wins included a two-set decision over Win-E-Mac, a team which took fourth place in the state tournament, so it's hard to imagine that M-C was anything less than a top-ten team in Class A. The last coaches' poll on October 22 placed them at number seven.

The 2012 team was an experienced group, since just one senior starter was lost following the 2011 campaign. That was one of their strengths, coach Lonnie Morken said. "It was a good year," he added. "One of goals was to get to the section championship and we did that."

Another hallmark of the 2012 team was height, which made them the tallest M-C team in eight years. With taller players, the group came in tied for the third-best year in blocks per set (1.4) in M-C history. With 100 block assists (a new record), team defense shone bright. Total blocks numbered 139. Balls that got through were dug out on 1,425 occasions.

"It makes things a lot easier when you're able to get touches at the net as opposed to digging them in the back row," Morken observed.

Aggressive play is a Cougar trademark. On the attack, the team averaged 12.2 kills per set, comparable with the 2011 Cougars, who put away 12.0. Hitting percentage averaged .275, and kill percentage was 40.3. Those are numbers that most coaches only dream of achieving. Over the course of 37 matches, the Cougars attempted 2,939 kills, scoring on 1,185.

"We had a very balanced offense," Morken noted. Six players (Carly McCabe, Belle Sand, Lydia Geving, Kristina Mengis, Sara Lind and Christy Welscher) had more than 100 kills in 2012.

As a team, M-C averaged 3.2 ace serves per set. In-bounds serves came in at 91 percent. Aces outnumbered errors, 315 to 204.

Five players recorded over 100 digs (McCabe, Sand, Geving, Danielle Paul and Christine Lee).

"We had contributions from a lot of players this year... that makes it really nice for a coach," Morken added.

Working at becoming a team, rather than a bunch of individuals, is something all high school coaches deal with. The coach said his 2012 squad worked on that a lot over the course of the season, to good effect.

The Cougars return a solid core of experienced varsity players in 2013 with eight juniors coming back, but will miss seniors Welscher, Paul, Amanda Rasmussen and Mengis.

"Next year we'll hopefully set our goals a little higher," Morken said. "We tried to put our players in a position to succeed. Everybody had their roles... We saw a lot of improvement as the year went on. It was a very fun season."



Southeast Conference 2012

FINAL conf. season

VOLLEYBALL W L W L T

EAST

Mabel-Canton* 13- 0 31- 6 - 0

Spring Grove 10- 3 16-12 - 0

Houston 8 - 5 10-17 - 0

Hope Lutheran 4 - 9 7 -17 - 0

Lanesboro 1 -12 1 -18 - 0

WEST

LeRoy-Ostrander* 10- 3 20-10 - 0

Grand Meadow 9 - 4 15-11 - 0

Lyle/Pacelli 6 - 7 8 -14 - 0

Glenville-Emmons 4 - 9 6 -21 - 0

Schaeffer Academy 0 -13 0 -20- 0

* champions