Cloquet playing well as playoffs loomThe Cloquet volleyball team has come a long way in this 2012 season, and Tuesday night they
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
The Cloquet volleyball team has come a long way in this 2012 season, and Tuesday night they got a chance to measure up against one of the state’s top teams.
The ’Jacks (13-13) could have won a share of the Lake Superior Conference championship with a home win over Hermantown, but the Hawks (24-2) were too much, winning 25-20, 16-25, 25-13, 25-16 in the home team’s final match of the regular season.
“I think we played some of our best volleyball of the season over the last two weeks,” Lumberjacks Coach Heidi Anderson said. “But Hermantown is a very good team and we spent a lot of time on defense.”
Sami Westendorf led Cloquet with 14 kills and 7 digs in the match. Alex Oakes had 23 assists, 14 digs and three blocks, while Abbie Anderson, Olivia Mayasich and Kristie Wappes had three ace serves apiece.
Despite the loss, Cloquet is expected to get a home seed in the section playoffs and possibly a first-round bye, with Esko a possible opponent in the second round. Section seedings are determined by computer. The playoffs begin next Wednesday.
Regardless of who and where her team plays, Anderson is pleased with her team’s progress.
“We matched up well late in the season against the tougher teams like Greenway and Esko and Hermantown,” she said. “We are capable of competing, but we need to not just take individual games or points, but stretches of play and the entire match.”
The ’Jacks were better in their blocking against Hermantown but not yet good enough.
“They have a good front row,” Anderson said. “They had a lot of kills. We did too, a lot of touching on the block, which is a start, but [Hermantown] hammered the ball right through the block and teams will do that unless you are strong. We have to work to get more than just touches.
“It’s not showing up in the record, because we are at .500, but I see a vast improvement,” Anderson added. “We started the year at fundamentals, but now our serving is really solid, we’re working hard on defense, digging the ball better, chasing down balls and scrambling for balls that we weren’t a month ago. “
Anderson noted that most fans tend to measure success and growth in a different way.
“It’s hard when people watch and ask, ‘You won the second game but what happened after that?’” she said. “It’s not so much that we were playing worse but that’s where our average game is now. We need to redefine what’s ‘average,’ and that comes through practice.”
With the playoffs at hand, practice time is at a premium.
“We are where we want to be, but I hope we don’t run out of time,” Anderson said. “We are playing some of our best volleyball in the last week or two, and we had the same feeling last year. But then we came across Mora in the playoffs. Now we have a sense of urgency and a need to put it together right now.”
Anderson had high praise for junior hitter Olivia Mayasich and sophomore Sami Westendorf.
“Olivia has worked hard and done everything she can do in practice,” Anderson said. “She isn’t flashy or showy but she has been hitting the ball hard. Sami has also been playing well. She had 14 kills against Hermantown and the rest of our team had only three. She plays all six rotations, leads us in digs and kills, and serves at 95 percent. They both have really been stepping it up.”