Bar league volleyball digs in for the season

CARLTON - From sand-filled feet and trash talk, to rookies and old-timers, Monday nights in Carlton have always been fun. That's because volleyball is in full-swing at nearly every bar in town. The local Monday night co-ed outdoor sand volleyball...

Bump, set, spike!
Janelle Korpela of Carlton passes the ball Monday evening at Tom McFarland Park in Carlton during a match in the local co-ed outdoor sand volleyball bar league. Korpela is a part of the only all-women's squad in the league. Their Third Base Bar club, however, was defeated Monday by Elmwood Inn 3-0 in a sweep. "Win or lose, it's fun," said Korpela along with her teammates after the match. "We just got tired of playing with husbands and boyfriends." Jamie Lund/Pine Journal

CARLTON - From sand-filled feet and trash talk, to rookies and old-timers, Monday nights in Carlton have always been fun.

That's because volleyball is in full-swing at nearly every bar in town.

The local Monday night co-ed outdoor sand volleyball bar league has been around for years in the area. Week after week, volleyball enthusiasts play in search of friendly competition.

"Monday night is my night," laughed second-year league director Bree Mattson of Esko. "My kids keep me busy all week long and they know when it's Monday, I'll be playing volleyball."

Mattson, who plays on the defending champion and current league-leading Elmwood Inn No. 1 squad, decided to take the league director position last year because of her love for the game.


"I've been playing a long time, since high school," said Mattson with a laugh, recalling her roughly 20 years of playing. "But it's a lot of fun and I really enjoy it."

This summer's league consists of 18 teams from eight local bars. The regular season runs mid-May through the end of August, where squads will play for about 15 weeks before the playoffs. Matches run every Monday at 6:30 p.m. around the 10 local sand courts, as they make sure they get in all the action before the sun goes down.

After matches are complete, teams call in scores to Mattson and she plugs in the weekly scores to their website. Mattson said league fees are $50 per team and it's open to anyone interested.

Rules are quite easy. In a co-ed program like this, two girls must be present on the court at all times. The first team to 15 points wins the set, and a team must win three of the five sets to earn the match. There are no officials - teams are expected to make their own calls.

"It's the honor system," said Mattson, "and really, there isn't much arguing that goes on at all. It's actually pretty good."

Even though at times there is an occasional outburst, the league is something fun for most involved.

"You have your competitive teams and your teams out there to have fun," continued Mattson. "You don't have to have a ton of skill to play, either."

Some do (boast plenty of skills), however.


Shawn Boyd, a Cloquet resident, has been playing competitive volleyball since 1998 and is one of the more highly-skilled players in the league. Standing 6-foot-3, he pounds nearly every ball that comes his way into the sand.

"I'm into it," he said, laughing between sets Monday at Tom McFarland Park in Carlton. "Volleyball has been my favorite sport for quite a while now."

In addition to helping out during the high school season, the Cloquet Area Volleyball Club and Northland Volleyball Club's Juniors program (formerly Junior Olympics), Boyd is also part of four volleyball leagues in the summer.

Monday nights, he's a member of the Lost Isle No. 2 squad, which has been bumping, setting and spiking the ball together for a number of years.

"It's pretty laid back and easy going," said Boyd, noting there's plenty of good-natured trash talk during matches as well. "You let people hear it, too."

Other players are just rookies in their first season, such as Cloquet native Corinna Smith.

"It something fun to do, because if you haven't played before, no one makes fun of you," she said. "We all have a good time and just play."

And though Smith's team, Third Base Bar No. 2, isn't the best - most-recently suffering a Monday evening swept against Boyd's team - she said she's learning a lot.


"We're not too good," she laughed, "but I've learned a lot of little things here and there from the more experienced teams. I've met a lot of new friends, too, and that's what it's all about. We've all gotten a little better and have had fun."

Janelle Korpela agreed.

"We're all friends," said the Carlton native. "We're just a bunch of friends getting together to do something that we love to do."

Korpela and her Third Base Girls squad are the only all-women's team in the league - and proud of it. Having played for years, they decided roughly five years ago to start their own team.

"We got tired of playing with husbands and boyfriends," Korpela laughed. "They just hog the ball too much."

Though getting swept Monday by Elmwood Inn No. 2, the Third Base Girls were pumped for playoffs coming up Saturday, Aug. 28. The one-day, double-elimination tournament is the highlight of the season. Places first through fourth will receive winnings, as well.

"We'll be there all day long," said Korpela. "It's on our calendar!"

And one can bet it'll be memorable time for all involved.


"I don't know what it's going to be like," said Smith, "but I'm excited."

"I'm definitely looking forward to it," added Mattson. "There will be a lot of games. We can't play two days though, we're just too old. We're considered senior citizens!"

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