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Ogichidaag optimistic about new look

Fond du Lac Ojibwe School volleyball players Katelynn Stapleton (left) blocks the kill attempt of Lakeview Christian's Lydia Swanson. Dave Harwig/news@pinejournal.com 1 / 3
Tea Drift hits past the defense of Carrie Rosasco. Dave Harwig/news@pinejournal.com 2 / 3
McKenzie Angell makes a kill past Alexis Peterson during Thursday's volleyball match at home. Dave Harwig/news@pinejournal.com 3 / 3

Dale Sautbine has taught art for over three decades at the Fond du Lac Ojibwe School, but perhaps the best piece he is painting this fall is the volleyball team he coaches.

Like an artist with his brush, Sautbine is weaving together a team of girls from the small Cloquet tribal school, as well as several key contributors from Cloquet High School in playing their first season for the Ogichidaag.

Sautbine, always so positive, kick-started the program in 1983 and has only missed three seasons since, one of which was last fall, when athletic director Earl Otis and volleyball assistant coach Shawn Boyd took over when the 55-year-old Sautbine underwent major back surgery.

Now back and fully healthy, Sautbine is as optimistic as ever with nearly 20 girls out for the program, including Cloquet juniors Tanisha Martineau, McKenzie Angell and sophomores Katelynn Stapleton and Tamara Martineau.

All four are in their rookie season wearing the blue, gold and white, and they bring plenty of firepower with having played for Cloquet in years past. The quartet has seen ample playing time with the Ogichidaag, and can hit, block and serve effectively.

“It makes a difference,” said Sautbine over the phone following the team’s 25-15, 25-8, 25-17 road victory at Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School Monday. “It’s definitely a plus.”

Those four surely aren’t the only effectors for FDL (4-6), as kids including seniors Faryn Dupuis, Tea Drift and junior Naazhe Sutten have been on the team for several years and offer needed experience. Seniors Jasmine Cloud, Ashlee Antell-White and junior Azzy Aubid also aid the roster.

Dupuis, who sets for the team, says she likes the new additions to their lineup, but it’s all still a work in progress.

That was evident in a tough fight with Lakeview Christian Academy last Thursday during a five-set 25-22, 9-25, 19-25, 25-19, 8-15 defeat at their home gym on the Fond du Lac Reservation.

“It’s been a little different, but it’s been good,” said Dupuis, noting it’s going to be sad not to put on her Ogichidaag uniform again after this season ends. “We’re still working on our chemistry, but we have [what it takes].”

FDL will have to put it all together if they want to pull an upset in Section 7A, but they’re tough and it’s feasible, especially with a new-look lineup for their artistic coach.

“They’re just a nice all-around team,” Sautbine said.

“What I like most is being able to play with girls I’ve been close with for a long time,” Tanisha Martineau added.

KEYNOTES BY KORBY

While Sautbine has been heading the Ogichidaag since 1983, Carlton coach Barb Soukkala has been with the Bulldogs since 1977. Her team is seeking a state tournament "three-peat" this month and surely kept pace this week. That's because one year after beating Esko for the first time since 2007, Carlton repeated that feat Tuesday. After dropping the opening set, the Bulldogs bounced back for a 21-25, 25-14, 25-22, 25-23 Polar League victory over their neighbors. Macy Belich's 21 kills centered the Bulldogs while Lindsay Ermatinger added 11 to back Hannah Benson's 26 set assists.

The Eskomos were effective behind Taylor Robinson's 38 assists to pace an attack headed by Karinne Houser's 12 kills, Hannah Stark's 10 and seven each from Suntina Spehar and Mackenzie Holland. The rivalry match was well-attended — as always — by both schools and the "Doghouse" in Carlton had many moments of excitement. The Bulldogs' student section also sported a well-decorated USA theme.

Speaking of patriotic themes, the Hibbing students wore their red, white and blue at home Tuesday against Cloquet, but it didn't faze the Lumberjacks in their 25-23, 25-20, 25-27, 25-23 win. Anna Hansmeyer (15 kills) and Kassidy Steen (12) keyed the Cloquet offense that also quieted an impressive pep band.

South Ridge also needed four sets to get by visiting Wrenshall in their 25-16, 25-8, 20-25, 25-13 Polar League victory Tuesday. Mallory Thibault led all players with 17 kills and Krystal Karppinen tossed 36 set assists.

Meanwhile in Cromwell, Moose Lake-Willow River outlasted the Cardinals 25-20, 21-25, 25-20, 23-25, 15-9 in five. The Rebels relied on their three-headed monster of Ally Bode (15 kills), Libbie Ring (11) and Sage Gerard (10) to aid Skyler Hoffman's 39 helpers. The Cardinals were carried by their pair of Bailey G's, as Bailey Gronner got 14 kills and Bailey Gibbs 12. Gronner also collected 20 digs to follow Kiiera Anderson's 22 in defeat.

Barnum was also a five-set loser Tuesday, as a once 2-0 Bombers lead evaporated into a 25-19, 25-20, 22-25, 23-25, 8-15 Polar League setback at McGregor.

Likewise, FDLTCC has been defeated in all of its matches — and sets — this fall, as the Thunder now sit 0-11 overall and 0-33 in set play in their first season back after a lack of numbers forfeited all of last year.

Then there's the complete opposite when looking at Cook County which, at 17-0, is one of two remaining unbeaten teams of 413 high school programs statewide. Carlton hopes to break that goose egg tonight, Thursday, Oct. 8, in my game of the week at Grand Marais. A long drive, but well-worth the scenic trip up Highway 61 to watch these Polar League juggernauts.

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