The M-C Cougars graduated an outstanding class of netters last year, including three-time All-State and four-time SEC Player of the Year Belle Sand, three-time All SEC players Carly McCabe and Lydia Geving, and all-conference players Christine Lee and Sara Lind.
“On the surface it appears we might be in a rebuilding mode, however we have some very talented younger kids that want to keep M-C volleyball at the elite level,” head coach Lonnie Morken said recently.
Sand is now playing Division 1 college volleyball at Syracuse (Atlantic Coast Conference), McCabe at RCTC, and Lind at Saint Mary’s in Winona.
“We do return all-conference players in sophomore setter Coranda Vickerman and senior outside hitter Sara Vettleson-Trutza,” Morken reported. “Other returning letterwinners are seniors Hannah Nolte, Danielle Graves, and Ashlyn Dahl, sophomore Courtney Graves, freshman Savannah Slafter, and eighth grader Lexi Thorson. Other varsity members this fall are junior Emma Wathier, freshmen Dakota Delaney and Maddy Aasum, eighth grader Maddy Michels, and seventh grader Payton Danielson.
Vickerman played as a defensive specialist (DS) in eighth grade, then checked in at right side hitter and setter as a freshman. Her stats last year included 91 ace serves, 171 digs, and 130 set assists. Vettleson-Trutza totaled 118 kills and 31.5 blocks.
“The nonstarters last year gained some valuable practice experience playing with and against the senior class,” Morken added. “Slafter and Vettleson-Trutza are the lead candidates for outside hitter, Delaney and Courtney Graves are looking like the middle hitters, Vickerman setting, and Nolte as the right side. The libero position will be between Thorson and Wathier. Whomever doesn’t get the libero position will be in contention with Dahl as our DS.
As a member of the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, Morken enters his 21st season at the helm with a record of 523-105. He will be assisted once again by Bethany Moen and Susie Munroe.
“Our strengths will be a desire to maintain the high level of our program,” he said. “Most small schools go through cycles of good athletes which lead to successful teams, but they have ups and downs. We’ve been fortunate to average 28 wins the past 16 years and hope to continue that this season. Our ball control and serving should be pretty strong, but our lack of height and experience could be potential weaknesses.
The Cougars won their 16th straight SEC championship in 2013, with an overall record of 33-3.
Morken said that Lyle-Pacelli and Lanesboro should be improved conference opponents this time around. Newcomer Randolph is a somewhat of a black horse, but the Rockets did beat Grand Meadow and L/P last year. In the ever-tough subsection (1A East), Fillmore Central, Goodhue, and Wabasha-Kellogg will be the teams to beat, but Faribault BA will be the overall favorite at section. That's because BA got some transfer students from Medford this year, so they “almost form an all-star team,” he predicted. “They will probably be one of the top two or three teams in any class in the state.”