Bulldogs beat Panthers in Polar League sweep

Carlton didn't start school until Wednesday, but it's the Bulldog volleyball team that's been doing its homework. Carlton worked past South Ridge 27-25, 25-17, 25-12 in a Polar League volleyball sweep Tuesday night at Culver, marking the Bulldogs...

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Carlton's Grace Macor gets a kill over the block attempt of South Ridge's Justice Janke. Dave Harwig/

Carlton didn’t start school until Wednesday, but it’s the Bulldog volleyball team that’s been doing its homework.

Carlton worked past South Ridge 27-25, 25-17, 25-12 in a Polar League volleyball sweep Tuesday night at Culver, marking the Bulldogs’ second win in as many tries this fall.

Trying to advance to the state tournament like they did a season ago, Carlton (2-0) - also winners over Deer River a week ago - returns five of its six starters and has been continuously preparing for their opponent’s best challenge.

That was the case Tuesday in a thrilling opening set narrowly won by the Bulldogs, ending with senior Jess Stanslaski’s ace and classmate Grace Macor’s solo block.

“After we won that first one, the momentum was definitely on our side,” said Stanslaski, noting she and her teammates’ state-tournament experience helps in tight times. “We don’t panic in those close ones. We just work together and encourage each other. We stay confident and know we have to control the ball when it’s on our side.”


Stanslaski slammed home eight kills on the night to follow junior Macy Belich’s nine and Macor’s match-best 14 and three blocks for a powerful offense that took advantage of South Ridge’s (1-1) mistakes throughout.

“We made some unforced errors and got a little frustrated,” said Panthers Coach Brad Olesiak. “Carlton is solid - they have no weaknesses. They go right at you.”

Olesiak, in his seventh season coaching, like Carlton, also has five starters back, including his senior daughter, Mikayla, who had 29 set assists Tuesday, to aid classmate Justice Janke’s 11 kills and junior Lindsey Janke’s nine.

If his team - which also swept North Woods last week - get things right, a Section 7A playoff rematch with the defending-champion Bulldogs may happen in late October.

“If we meet them again, that’s a good thing,” he said.

Although good things are happening in Carlton - which hasn’t yet lost a set - their coach is sticking to the reality.

“I’ll them all the time that every team is out to get you and wants to beat us,” said longtime Bulldogs Coach Barb Soukkala, now in her 37th season. “Anything can happen.”

“We know how it feels to lose those close ones,” junior setter Hannah Benson said. “We just need to stay focused.”


Just like when they’re doing their daily homework.

“Coach says we have a target on our back,” Stanslaski said. “State’s not guaranteed. We have to work each game.”


Barnum (0-3) bused down to host Onamia only to take defeat, as the Bombers fell in a 25-8, 25-7, 25-10 non-conference loss Tuesday night. Inexperienced Barnum, which remains winless this fall, struggled with the absence of starting middle hitter Hannah Tate, who was out with an ankle injury.

Even with lots of upperclassmen experience on the court, Cloquet (1-1) couldn't keep up with Grand Rapids, as the visiting Lumberjacks lost a 25-21, 25-21, 25-13 non-conference match Tuesday night to the Thunderhawks. Cloquet, which swept Duluth East last week, was led by Kassidy Steen's team-best six kills, adding to Alex Oakes' and Sami Westendorf's 22-combined set assists.

Cromwell-Wright (1-2) wore out Two Harbors Tuesday night, as the Cardinals swept the host Agates 25-17, 25-17, 25-21 in a Polar League victory. In the first win for Cromwell-Wright, Bailey Gronner had five kills to add with Rachel Hutar's perfect night of serving, at 18-for-18.

Esko (2-0) eased by Hibbing last Thursday, as the host Eskomos earned a 25-23, 25-17, 25-22 non-conference sweep over the visiting Bluejackets. Esko, still unbeaten after also beating Hermantown last week, were paced by 6-foot-5 Molly Trapp's team-high 12 kills to aid Jiana Jubie's 22 set assists.


Fond du Lac Ojibwe opens its season Thursday at Lac Courte Oreilles in Hayward, Wis., as the Ogichidaa offer both a varsity and junior varsity program with roughly 16 players, according to athletic director Earl Otis late Tuesday. Otis is the current coach for the team, taking over for Coach Dale Sautbine, who will miss the entire season due to recent back surgery.

Moose Lake-Willow River (2-0) ran past Proctor Tuesday night, as the visiting Rebels rolled to a 25-18, 25-10, 25-19 non-conference victory. ML-WR, unblemished this early fall, were keyed by Karina Cisar and Ally Bode's 13-combined kills, meshing well with Lauren Ross' 13 set assists.

Wrenshall (1-1) whipped Lakeview Christian Academy 25-6, 25-9, 25-8 in a quick non-conference sweep at Wrenshall Tuesday night. The Wrens, which lost to Mountain Iron-Buhl last week, were guided Tuesday by the Swanson sisters, Chloe and Tatum, who had a combined eight kills and eight ace serves, while Ashlynn Carlson collected half a dozen aces as well.

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