You can't blame the Cannon Falls players if they enter Thursday's game at Kasson-Mantorville feeling a little like they're playing with house money.
For years, Cannon Falls has been overshadowed by the bigger and stronger teams in the Hiawatha Valley Conference and Class 2A, Section 1. Sure, the Bombers (18-5, 2-2) are still in the same conference with Stewartville and Kasson-Mantorville, but those teams have moved up to Class 3A in the new four-class system.
And the No. 3-2A Bombers intend to make the most of this rare opportunity. Cannon Falls has a realistic shot at qualifying for the state tournament for the first time with the No. 2-3A Tigers, which won the Class 2A, Section 1 championship four times and reached the section semifinals five times, and No. 4-3A Kasson-Mantorville — which played in the section final six times, winning three — out of the way.
The Bombers appear to be the section front-runner (although No. 8-2A Caledonia remains in the section, where the Warriors reached the final three times, winning once). And, so whatever happens in the conference race or in the game against Kasson-Mantorville, Cannon Falls will still be positioned well in its run for a state tournament appearance.
A mostly senior lineup has brought the Bombers to this point. Middle Halle Hustad, setter Jaci Winchell, libero Bree Robinson and outside Lauren Johnson form the Cannon Falls core. Sophomore middle Madison Burr adds a presence at the net.
The Komets (18-2, 5-0) have their usual strong team, but they still must contend with Stewartville and No. 6-3A Byron in the conference and Class 3A.