Cloquet creates a winning cultureIt’s normal to see a single-setter formation in volleyball, yet in the case of Alex Oakes, Sami Westendorf and the Cloquet volleyball team, two is better than one.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
It’s normal to see a single-setter formation in volleyball, yet in the case of Alex Oakes, Sami Westendorf and the Cloquet volleyball team, two is better than one.
Oakes, Westendorf and a deep-cast of teammates lifted the Lumberjacks past neighboring Esko 19-25, 25-17, 25-17, 25-18 in a prep volleyball rivalry match before a sizeable gymnasium of spectators Monday night in Cloquet.
Both on the varsity since middle school, Westendorf, at 5-foot-8, and Oakes, 5-foot-9, have played a lot together. Still, not until Cloquet Coach Heidi Anderson chose to run a two-set scheme this season, has the junior duo been so valuable.
“I love it,” said Oakes, who sets when Westendorf hits, and hits when her teammate sets. “It’s nice having Sami there. We always both know that we will have each other’s backs.”
“Me and Alex connect,” Westendorf added. “It works.”
Following an opening set comeback by Esko on Monday, the Lumberjacks (9-3) worked the Eskomos throughout the next three frames. In a match featuring Cloquet’s most digs as a team defense, their offense was just as balanced — quarterbacked by Oakes’ 20 set assists and Westendorf’s 16.
“They’re good players,” Esko Coach Desiree DeLeon said. “Cloquet just outplayed us. They deserved to win.”
Esko (8-4) rebounded with a sweeping win Tuesday over Cromwell-Wright, yet show youthfulness at times with only three seniors: Christaia Houser, Courtney Johnston and Hailey Salo.
“We have talent,” said DeLeon, whose team was led by Houser’s 13 kills, 12 digs and Johnston’s 28 assists Monday. “It’s a matter of getting more experience — more consistent.”
Consistency is something the Lumberjacks seem to have in their favor. After a quick sweep of Duluth Marshall Tuesday, Cloquet has won five straight, including wins over Esko, Duluth East and Hibbing, a first for Anderson in her 10 years at the helm.
“Probably our greatest strength is that we have 12 people working hard every day to make each other better,” Anderson said, “not just the six that are out there on the court at a time.”
“There’s not a weak link on our team,” added Oakes.
It’s a team that includes hitters Olivia Mayasich — 10 kills Monday — Chandler Beaupre and Kassidy Steen on the net, as well as Sammy Zeadow, Katie Zezulka, Hazel Erickson, Taylor Leyrer and Callie Holm in back, tallying 40-plus digs together on Esko. Jess Stone also added two mid-match aces.
“Everyone on the court has so much talent and plays with their whole heart,” said Westendorf, who added 10 kills and 15 digs to her assist pile on Monday. “This is our year.”
Barnum (3-4) buried visiting Wrenshall 25-10, 25-21, 25-20 in a Polar League sweep last Thursday. The Bombers, led by Sage Miletich’s 22 digs, broke a two-game losing slide.
Carlton (10-1) coasted by McGregor 25-19, 25-22, 25-15 Tuesday in a Polar League sweep at home, as the Bulldogs fed off Grace Macor and Macy Belich’s 15-kill combination.
Cromwell-Wright (4-5) was whipped 25-17, 25-18, 25-14 in a Polar League loss Tuesday in Esko. Both Allie Cahoon and Bailey Gronner had five ace serves in the defeat.
Fond du Lac Ojibwe (6-1) overwhelmed Lac Courte Oreilles 25-16, 25-14, 25-11 Tuesday in Wisconsin. The Ogichidaa, winners of six straight, were led by a balanced team effort.
Moose Lake-Willow River (11-5) rallied in the last set to win 25-11, 26-24, 25-20 by Polar League visitor Cook County Tuesday, as the Rebels relied on Adri Jusczak’s eight kills.
South Ridge (7-4) ripped by visiting Bigfork 25-8, 25-8, 25-17 Tuesday in Culver. The Panthers were productive on Justice Janke’s 10 kills and Callie Thomason’s 24 set assists.
Wrenshall (3-4) whizzed by Silver Bay 25-19, 26-24, 25-22 in a Polar League sweep Tuesday in Wrenshall. It was the Wrens’ first volleyball conference victory since 2008.
FDLTCC (0-8) has fielded no wins, including 0-for