Cardinals, other area teams enter playoffs in good formAllie Cahoon and the Cardinals carried Lakeview Christian Academy off the court in a quick 3-0 (25-10, 25-10, 25-14) sweep in a Section 7A play-in game Monday evening in Cromwell.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Cromwell-Wright setter Allie Cahoon admitted she couldn’t remember much while getting carried off the volleyball court after getting a concussion chasing after a ball against Carlton two weeks ago, .
Yet it was Cahoon and the Cardinals that carried Lakeview Christian Academy off the court in a quick 3-0 (25-10, 25-10, 25-14) sweep in a Section 7A play-in game Monday evening in Cromwell.
“I don’t know what our serve percentage was, but it was good,” said the 5-foot-5 Cahoon, who was a perfect 13-for-13 in her first start since getting her bell rung. “We always shoot for around 80 percent. We reached it.”
The Cardinals (11-6) have reached a lot of their goals this fall. Monday’s sweep was their first playoff win in a number of seasons, while they finished fourth in the always-deep, 11-team Polar League.
“It’s been a big change from 17 years ago, I don’t think we had a win that first season,” said Cromwell-Wright Coach Lori Wester, who has headed the program since 1996. “We have some athletic girls who all want to keep playing, especially our four seniors.”
Wester said those seniors – Christina Stenson, Brittany Johnson, Kayle Johnson and Ann Collman – have headed the fifth-seeded Cardinals this fall. Monday evening, Stenson was a perfect 11-for-11 serving, while Collman and Kayle Johnson pounded seven kills each.
“We may not be the tallest team, but we have girls willing to get on the floor,” Wester said. “[Monday] we held our own with the ball. I was pleased with how we played. We had a good practice [Tuesday], too.”
The Cardinals faced league rival and fourth-seeded Cook County on the road when this edition of the Pine Journal went to press.
Cahoon – who didn’t play against the Vikings in a 3-1 loss two weeks ago on road due to her concussion – said win or lose, it’s been a successful season for the small-town program.
“We were all on,” she said of their win over the bottom-seeded Lions Monday. “At the beginning of the season, we didn’t come out strong, but have since stepped it up and, now, trust each other. We need to keep our energy up, but there’s a lot more hustle around here – and dedication.”
If the Cardinals beat Cook County, they would likely face top-seeded Carlton (19-7) in the quarterfinals in Proctor Friday. Led by dual setters Hannah Benson and Brianna Walton, plus heavy hitters Clarissa Nelson, Macy Belich, Jessie Stanslaski and Grace Macor, the Bulldogs are 7A title hopefuls.
“I told them, ‘Your record doesn’t matter now, everyone is 0-0,’” said Carlton Coach Barb Soukkala. “They worked hard all winter and summer and have the pieces to do well. They’re not waiting for next year or the year after.”
“Everyone can be beat, so we can’t get too confident, but we have very high hopes,” said Macor, a 6-foot middle hitter. “Our passes, sets and hits have to be on. We have high hopes, but have to bring our A game.”
Esko (18-8) knows how to bring their A game, having won the 7AA crown in 2010 and 2011. Paced by lightning-fast hitter Amanda Belden, as well as Christaia Houser, Nikki Mitchell and libero Kallyn Knutson, the Eskomos are seeded second in their subsection and could have a potential meeting with neighboring Cloquet in Friday’s quarterfinals at Virginia.
“We have quite a few girls who have been on those state tournament teams and are craving to get back,” Esko Coach Desiree DeLeon said. “We know that we are going to have to play well, but I think we’re in a good spot.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, Fond du Lac Ojibwe and Wrenshall had already been swept out from postseason play, while fellow Polar League members Barnum and Moose Lake-Willow River remain alive.
Cloquet (13-13) is still alive, as Lumberjacks Coach Heidi Anderson noted they have recently played well against a bevy of the 7AA favorites, including the Eskomos, as well as highly-regarded Hermantown and Greenway.
“Our team’s volleyball IQ, court awareness and understanding of what’s happening on the floor has improved immensely,” Anderson said. “In the last couple of weeks, we have taken sets from Greenway, Esko and Hermantown. Clearly, we know we are capable of competing with them.”