Cloquet, Carlton aiming for section championshipsSammy Zeadow’s right-handed line drive clipped the tape and rolled over the net for an ace serve en route to scoring the final three service points to lift the Lumberjacks past arch-rival Esko 3-2 (23-25, 25-20, 25-21, 14-25, 15-12) in a Section 7AA quarterfinal barn-burner last Friday night in Virginia.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
VIRGINIA – Sporting a lightning-fast float serve, Sammy Zeadow at times loses accuracy, sending shooting volleyballs rifling into the net.
But it was the Cloquet junior’s near-miss that saved the season.
Zeadow’s right-handed line drive clipped the tape and rolled over the net for an ace serve en route to scoring the final three service points to lift the Lumberjacks past arch-rival Esko 3-2 (23-25, 25-20, 25-21, 14-25, 15-12) in a Section 7AA quarterfinal barn-burner last Friday night in Virginia.
“Obviously it’s a little nerve-racking with the game in your hands like that,” said Zeadow, a 5-foot-7 outside hitter, “but having our team there with me made me relax a bit. I wasn’t really that nervous.”
Zeadow cracked the middle of the net twice and sent a ball wide left before the sparkplug role player off the bench recorded Cloquet points 13, 14 and 15, including the final pair after a late Esko timeout.
Following the timeout, Zeadow’s serve grazed the top of the net and fell over for an ace. Moments later, an Esko hitting error ended the match as the Lumberjacks upset the two-time defending section champions. Cloquet players and coaches exploded into celebration.
“I saw the final ball go into the net and it was like slow motion; I was so happy,” said Cloquet junior middle hitter Olivia Mayasich. “[Zeadow] came through for us during those last few points. She didn’t have a lot of speed on it or anything, but she got it in, and that’s what we needed.”
Cloquet dropped a tight opening set, before taking both a close second and third. Esko eased through the fourth in the night’s only uncontested set, but fell short in the fifth.
“The girls and coaches were disappointed in the loss and our play,” Esko Coach Desiree DeLeon said of the defeat, which ended Esko’s season at 19-9. “But Cloquet outplayed us that night. We had a good season, and are sorry to be done.”
Jubilantly raising her arms after the win, Cloquet Coach Heidi Anderson stressed hard work at practice this week, as the Lumberjacks (15-13) engaged with giant Hermantown (26-2) in the 7AA Final Four on Halloween night at Duluth Denfeld when this edition of the Pine Journal went to press.
“It’s a win I’ll remember for a long time,” Anderson said following a strong practice Tuesday. “What makes it so special is we’ve worked hundreds and hundreds of scenarios for what to do in tight situations, and the girls stayed mentally tough and finished the match out.
“Esko played a hard fought match; one more point the other way and our season could have been over,” Anderson continued. “We’ve been on the other side so many times. Now we just have to be ready to play good, tough, hard volleyball again, no matter how many games it takes.”
Amanda Belden recorded 25 kills to back Courtney Johnston’s 42 set assists for Esko, while Cloquet’s Alex Oakes piled up 35 set assists and 19 digs to go along with Sami Westendorf’s 21 digs and Mayasich’s 16 kills. Zeadow had 11 digs to go with her trio of clutch serves and energetic attitude.
“We can’t fall asleep now,” she said. “We have to keep it going.”
Section 7A – Carlton, Cromwell-Wright
Carlton (21-7) is still going after sweeping Cromwell-Wright 3-0 (25-12, 25-15, 28-26) in last Friday’s Section 7A quarterfinals in Proctor. Clarissa Nelson and Macy Belich guided the Bulldogs with 10 kills apiece.
Like Cloquet, top-seeded Carlton played on Halloween in the 7A Final Four against Littlefork-Big Falls in Virginia when this edition hit the press. Both the 7A and 7AA finals will be Saturday at Duluth Denfeld at 4 and 6 p.m.
“We’re going to have to pass and play some defense,” said Carlton Coach Barb Soukkala, who took teams to state in 2003 and 2004. “If they’re on, I think that any one of these four teams left can win the section.”
“We didn’t play our best, but I am very proud of my girls and the season they had,” said Cardinals Coach Lori Wester, whose team ended 12-7. “Carlton is a talented team that plays year-round. We gave them a run in the third.”