Volleyball Roundup: Thunder taking confident approachKourtney Karppinen can hit a volleyball harder than most 18-year-old girls. So hard, in fact, that the middle hitter scares people on both sides of the net. Learn all about the FDLTCC volleyball team plus roundups of Carlton County high school volleyball teams.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
CLOQUET – Kourtney Karppinen can hit a volleyball harder than most 18-year-old girls. So hard, in fact, that the middle hitter scares people on both sides of the net.
MaKayleigh Cahoon perhaps knows that double duty best.
Cahoon, an outside hitter and graduate of Cromwell-Wright, faced South Ridge’s Karppinen for several seasons when the small high schools squared off each year. The pair of college freshmen has now teamed up as part of the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College volleyball program.
“I would always try to dig it from her,” said Cahoon, recalling her usual struggles against the hard-swinging 5-foot-10 Karppinen. “Now, she’s just a big part of our team. She’s a go-to player that can go all the way around the court.”
Karppinen and Cahoon are a part of a polished FDLTCC team that features a horde of freshmen who have already made the Thunder (1-4) more competitive and exciting to watch than in their first three seasons. In their lone win over Vermilion Sept. 11, Karppinen set a school record with 25 kills.
“Every play we need Kourtney to get her hands on the ball,” said third-year Thunder Coach Laura Sylvester following a five-set loss to Hibbing on campus in Cloquet Saturday afternoon. “Kourtney brings a lot to us.”
Karppinen also holds the school record with six blocks in a match, along with fellow freshman Marita Yellowhammer of Carlton. Kaitlyn Psick posted a school-best 44 set assists against Vermilion, too.
While sporting only one win, FDLTCC has been competitive in nearly all five of their matches.
Sylvester said it’s been a positive gym of girls.
“We’re getting better every game and have some weapons this year,” said Sylvester, who is also assisted by fourth-year coach Loran Wappes. “We still have time to adjust, but we’re definitely taking strides in the right direction.”
Twelfth-year Hibbing Coach Mike Turnbull agreed. Over time, Turnbull said he’s noticed the Thunder improving and pushing teams like his to five sets last weekend.
“They’re going to beat some people,” Turnbull said. “Laura and Loran are doing a good job and it’s nice to see the program continuing to push forward. They’re athletic, too. They’ll definitely be in the contention for the playoffs.”
Especially if Karppinen is around. Suffering a sprained left ankle last Friday, the Brookston native is hampered, but won’t let up hitting volleyballs anytime soon.
“I was a little slower today,” Karppinen said Saturday. “But any chance I get, I’ll play volleyball. I just love the game. It has always been my sport.”
Barnum (1-4) notched its first win by upending Polar League rival Wrenshall 3-1 last Thursday on the road. The Bombers were paced last week by MJ Anderson’s 10 kills, Daron Mainville’s 10 ace serves and Lauren Hultgren’s 18 set assists. Mainville, Kelsey Wickstrom and Olivia Angell all had five kills in the victory.
Carlton (7-2) is still red-hot, sweeping Polar League host McGregor Tuesday evening. The Bulldogs, which placed high at the Crosby-Ironton Tournament last weekend, also snubbed Mountain Iron-Buhl 3-1 on the road Monday. Macy Belich led all hitters with 11 kills against MIB, while Brianna Walton and Hannah Benson each tossed 12 set assists.
Cloquet (5-6) has fallen twice lately, coming up short in a tight 3-2 defeat at Lake Superior Conference nemesis Superior last Thursday, while being swept by visiting Hibbing Monday night. Sami Westendorf paced the Lumberjacks with 12 kills against the Spartans and four on the Bluejackets. Alex Oakes heaved 25 set assists last week and 14 Monday.
Cromwell-Wright (4-3) swept host Lakeview Christian Academy last Thursday but was swept by Polar League visitor Esko Tuesday. Christina Stenson and Ann Collman combined for 16 digs to lead the Cardinals.
Esko (7-3) fared well at last weekend’s North Branch Tournament, while they added to their record with a quick sweep of Polar League counterpart Cromwell-Wright Tuesday night in Cromwell. Back from injury, Amanda Belden led the Eskomos with 11 kills, while Christaia Houser added nine to back Courtney Johnston’s match-leading 27 set assists.
Fond du Lac Ojibwe (3-0) remained undefeated this fall, sweeping Indus near the Canadian border Tuesday evening. Coach Dale Sautbine – in his 29th season – highlighted efforts by Faryn Wilson, Jaelisa Northrup, Shana Peacock, Jocelyn Sayers, Skye Blacketter and Samantha LaDeaux in a match where the Ogichidaa finished with 25 ace serves and 15 kills.
Moose Lake-Willow River (4-10) continued their latest struggles Tuesday in a 3-1 loss at Polar League foe Cook County in Grand Marais. The Rebels have lost nine consecutive matches, including all at last weekend’s tournament in North Branch.
Wrenshall (3-5) has slipped in three straight matches against Barnum, Hill City and Silver Bay in a sweep Tuesday night on the North Shore. In the defeat, the much-improved Wrens were led by Chloe Swanson’s five kills, seven digs and Delaney Kittel’s seven digs.