Cloquet falls to Hermantown in Section 7AA semifinalsOff-night costs ’Jacks in season-ending sweep
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
DULUTH – The Cloquet volleyball team has been like a light switch this fall. Some nights they’re on; others they’re off.
Last Wednesday was one of the off-nights.
Tightness mixed with miscues led the way to a slow start for the Lumberjacks, as they were quickly swept by rival Hermantown 3-0 (25-11, 25-22, 25-16) in a Section 7AA semifinal at the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Romano Gymnasium last Wednesday night.
“We played kind of nervous and just were uncharacteristically scrambling and playing frantic,” Cloquet coach Heidi Anderson said after the defeat.
The season-ending loss started swiftly against the girls in white and purple, as Hermantown (19-10) jumped out to an early lead and basically never looked back, taking the first game from the ’Jacks 25-11.
“Once you did yourself a hole, you just push yourself hard to get out of it,” Anderson said. “You play tentative and try not to make mistakes.”
The ’Jacks, who finished the season at 19-10, had their best chance to take the momentum from the Hawks in the second game when they rallied back to tie it up 22-22. However, a pair of net violations and an attack error which sailed wide-right closed the game and virtually ended all hope for Cloquet, then trailing by two games.
“We just had a lot of unforced errors like that tonight,” said Anderson, “points you can’t afford to give up, especially when a game is close.”
Hermantown disposed of Cloquet in game three 25-16 and ended the highly-anticipated match in under an hour. Having lost to Cloquet twice during the season, Anderson said the Hawks made things tougher the third time around.
“They played strong tonight,” she said. “They didn’t let much hit the floor and came swinging at us. We had trouble and had to work hard. They put up a block, served and passed pretty well. There were no easy points to be had.”
Junior Maddie Kiehn led Cloquet with 11 kills and 10 digs, while eighth-graders Alex Oakes and Sam Westendorf had 11 and 7 set assists, respectively. Senior libero Kierra Johnson finished the evening with eight digs and capped off her three-year career with more than 1,000 digs. Seniors Ahnna Peterson and Katie Schulz had nine and eight digs as well.
Sophomore Stephanie Kallberg had a match-best 14 kills for Hermantown, while senior Andrea Enockson tossed 23 set assists in the win.
Despite the Hawks avenging a pair of earlier losses to the ’Jacks, Anderson remained positive about her young ladies in uniform. After all, Cloquet did win their first Lake Superior Conference title in 13 years this season – only the second in school history – as they snapped Hermantown’s 61-straight LSC match winning streak and nine-year reign atop the league.
“We still need to work on finishing and playing well in big games, but I think we’re getting better at being competitive with bigger schools and competitive teams in our area,” said Anderson. “We took some strides this year.”
Cloquet will lose four seniors in Johnson, Schulz, Peterson and Jenna Beaupre, yet next fall, might just make some more noise around town.
“We definitely have some big shoes to fill,” said Anderson, “but we are building a program and I think our returning players will be hungry. I’m optimistic.”