Carlton closes out BarnumBulldogs slip by rival Bombers 3-2 in Polar League volleyball thriller
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
CARLTON — There’s a lot of things Barb Soukkala’s Carlton volleyball players can’t do. Most can’t drive or even see a rated-R movie.
But their age isn’t a setback when it comes to getting on the court.
Soukkala’s young Bulldogs — featuring a half-dozen freshmen and a trio of eighth-graders on the varsity — rallied to take a come-from-behind 3-2 (25-22, 23-25, 21-25, 25-19, 15-13) victory over longtime Polar League rival Barnum Thursday night in their season opener in Carlton.
Although their youth was shown at times throughout the evening, Soukkala was satisfied with her girls’ efforts coming back to win the final two games of a tense clash with their next-door neighbors.
“I told them they stuck with it,” said Soukkala about addressing her players in the huddle afterward. “This is a real good win. We’ll take them anyway we can get.”
The pair of small-town clubs exchanged blows throughout the night, as Carlton won the opening set, Barnum the next two and the Bulldogs the final pair. To Soukkala, although it was warm, it was fun to watch.
“It was hot in here,” Soukkala laughed about the tiny gymnasium’s humid temperature. “But there was some good volleyball, too. There were some good volleys and some nice hits.”
During the tense fifth set, Carlton led 14-8, but five straight service points by Barnum senior setter Karianna Duesler made things interesting. However, at 14-13, Duesler grazed a serve into the net, as the Bulldogs went wild. For the night, an also young, yet competitive, Bombers team made 29 service errors.
“That’s the game,” said Barnum head coach Corina Newman afterward. “Our serving wasn’t the best and we need to work on it, but overall, that’s the best I’ve seen us play so far. We’re coming together.”
Duesler paced Barnum (0-3) with 25 set assists and eight ace serves, while fellow senior Allainie Hanek-Siltanen smashed 14 kills and 14 digs. Megan Nelson also had 12 digs for the Bombers, while MJ Anderson posted eight kills and Daron Mainville led with four blocks.
Carlton (1-0) was led by their senior duo as well, with Marita Yellowhammer killing seven balls and Alana Groth five. Macy Belich also had eight ace serves, while Grace Macor added seven in the win.
Though exciting, Soukkala — who has coached the Bulldogs since 1977 — made sure her youngsters kept things in perspective.
“They stuck together and that’s nice to see,” she said, “but it’s one win. It’s the first game. We still have the whole season to go yet. And we still have some tweaking to do.”
Carlton will head to the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted tournament this weekend before hosting Northeast Range Monday night at 7 p.m.
Barnum meanwhile will look for their first win of the season when they host Onamia Tuesday and Polar League foe Wrenshall Thursday. Both matches will begin at 7 p.m.