Cloquet’s staunch service attack leads to quick sweep of RailsWhen she started playing volleyball as a third-grader, Sami Westendorf didn’t have the best underhand serve in the world. Nowadays, the Cloquet freshman’s technique is a little more effective.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
CLOQUET – When she started playing volleyball as a third-grader, Sami Westendorf didn’t have the best underhand serve in the world.
Nowadays, the Cloquet freshman’s technique is a little more effective.
It was the 14-year-old’s flat-footed floating serve that caused Proctor all sorts of problems Tuesday evening, as the Lumberjacks quickly swept past the visiting Rails 3-0 (25-16, 25-18, 25-18) for a Lake Superior Conference volleyball victory on Senior Night at Cloquet High School.
Already in her second full-time season on varsity, the young Westendorf racked up the opening seven service points of the match, then she rattled off a quintet of points midway through the second and three more in the final frame.
She was honest when asked if her serve has always been that deadly.
“No,” she said quickly, laughing.
Westendorf said that she’s gone through a half dozen different serving techniques, but has settled with the standing float serve.
“I just serve whatever is the hardest ball to pick up,” she said. “I jump served the whole fifth-grade season.”
That didn’t work out.
She quickly made adjustments and has been effective. Westendorf finished Tuesday with four ace serves. Freshman Alex Oakes and junior Kristie Wappes each collected five aces, while sophomore Olivia Mayasich chipped in four and senior Emily Fossen scored one making a Cloquet total of 19 aces for the night.
“It’s exactly like free points,” said Oakes, who uses a jump serve. “Aces are awesome. They make us more relaxed and get us going.”
With the momentum on their side most of the night, Cloquet never trailed in the opening set, but fought off Proctor leads in the second and third. Oakes closed with the final six service points, including a pair of aces.
“We always say, ‘Get that first serve over and in,’” said Oakes.
Ace after ace, the Lumberjacks (13-8) needed just an hour to sweep the conference match. Cloquet Coach Heidi Anderson said serving is something her program has improved on and continues to perfect.
“It’s one of those fundamentals that we continue to work on,” she said. “We have very good servers, but if we can try and serve it short, deep and hit our zones to try and be on the offensive, it really helps us out.”
Anderson said aces can help set up her girls’ momentum, but they have to remain consistent and keep the ball between the lines.
“Tonight we talked about more aces than errors,” Anderson said. “It’s nice to be able to get that ace ball, but it doesn’t do you any good if that next one is out. It’s something we spend a lot of time on.”
“You can tell when we don’t,” added Westendorf with a chuckle.
Along with their serving surge Tuesday, the Lumberjacks were led by senior Maddie Kiehn’s match-best 12 kills. The outside hitter now has well over 600 in her career, making her the school’s career record-holder.
Oakes distributed 21 set assists Tuesday; she was honored after the opening set for recording her 1,000th assist last Thursday at Ashland, Wis.
Fossen also had 11 kills in Cloquet’s fourth-straight win (the team has beaten Virginia, Crosby-Ironton, Ashland and Proctor).
“We’re working hard and playing well,” said Anderson. “Sometimes you try to fast-
forward things at the beginning of the year, but it takes time. We’re becoming more comfortable, confident and really starting to gel together.
“I think we’re going to be a tough team in the playoffs,” continued Anderson. “Hopefully no one will want to play us.”
Flip-flopping throughout the early part of the fall, Oakes noted their turnaround began with a win over Virginia at their tournament two weeks ago.
“That really gave us some motivation,” Oakes said.
“It was a wake-up call,” said Westendorf. “We knew we had to work harder.”
Anderson agreed with her pair of young starters.
“We had some bumps up there,” said Anderson, who starts three freshmen in her opening lineup. “We’re young, but we decided that we’re going to come together and work through things. And they’re really improving.”
Cloquet’s schedule won’t lighten up anytime soon. They head to the Esko Invitational this weekend before closing at LSC rival Hermantown Tuesday, with a slight possibility of tying for the conference championship if the cards fall right.
“We’re excited for next week,” said Oakes of playing against the Hawks, the team Cloquet defeated for the league title last fall.
“It’s definitely going to be challenging,” added Westendorf. “But we like to play the good teams.”