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Prep volleyball: 'Jacks sweep rival Eskomos in front of raucous crowd

Ava Carlson of Cloquet led all hitters with 15 kills in the match.

Hitter goes up for a kill
Gabby Martenson of Esko goes up for a kill with Blythe Proulx of Cloquet defending during a Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, match at Esko High School.
Amy Arntson / Cloquet Pine Journal
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ESKO — A raucous crowd of spectators and opposing student sections packed the gym at Esko High School, Tuesday, Sept. 27, for the annual matchup between rivals Esko (9-3) and Cloquet (10-2).

The back-and-forth showdown lived up to the billing with Cloquet overcoming a seven-point deficit in the opening set before narrowly edging the Eskomos in the final two tightly contested sets for the 3-0 sweep, 25-22, 25-21, 25-19.

“It’s always tough to play in Esko, and they just found a way to stay calm,” Cloquet coach Heidi Anderson said in response to the team’s recovery in the first two sets. “It’s a fun atmosphere to play in with the student sections and all the fans, but I thought they did a good job of just taking a breath and finishing strong in three.”

On the other side, Esko coach Pete Stasiuk came away frustrated with the team’s costly errors and inability to take the Lumberjacks out of their system.

“We didn’t bring our best tonight. We let Cloquet do what they do and we didn’t do anything to stop them,” Stasiuk said. “We’ve got some work to do cleaning up our defense. Our defense just didn’t show up well enough tonight, and then we just started making too many errors at the wrong times.”

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The opening set was a battle for momentum with the two teams exchanging leads five times before the Lumberjacks ultimately pulled ahead late at 21-20 and never looked back.

Player prepares for dig
Ashley Austin digs the ball during a match against Esko, Tuesday, Sept. 27, at Esko High School.
Amy Arntson / Cloquet Pine Journal

Esko hitter Gabby Martenson, who went on to finish with 10 kills for the match, forced the Lumberjacks to make some adjustments to limit her impact offensively.

“We had trouble with Gabby Martenson early on,” Anderson said. “She was kind of getting us on the cross-court ball and (we were) trying to make some adjustments for how to take away that scoring option for her. She found a way to still get her kills but (we tried) to just, you know, minimize the damage.”

Cloquet’s Ava Carlson and Aili Buytaert provided the response for the ‘Jacks with numerous timely kills in the opening set from assists leader Carly Johnson.

Hitter goes for kill
Ava Carlson of Cloquet goes up for a kill during a Tuesday, Sept. 27, match against Esko at Esko High School.
Amy Arntson / Cloquet Pine Journal

Carlson went on to lead all hitters with 15 kills for the match in what was a strong performance overall, according to Anderson.

“I thought she was really smart with her shots tonight,” Anderson said. “We kind of met before the game and went over a plan for different options for scoring instead of always trying to pound the ball and she did a good job executing. She really sees the floor well and is a smart player.”

The confidence built from their come-from-behind win provided a boost to the club in set two as the ‘Jacks seized the early momentum and built a commanding 18-10 lead.

Kills leader Kyra Johnson guided the Eskomos back to within striking distance at 23-20, but the ‘Jacks managed to stave off the comeback bid to win 25-21 in set two and 25-19 in set three to seal the match.

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The Eskomos will return to their home court Thursday, Sept. 29, when they host Hibbing for a 7 p.m. match. The Lumberjacks will travel to Duluth Denfeld for their next match, against the Hunters on Thursday, Sept. 29 at 7 p.m.

Player goes for dig
Esko's Hanna Nooyen prepares to dig the ball during a Tuesday, Sept. 27, match against Cloquet at Esko High School.
Amy Arntson / Cloquet Pine Journal

Cloquet def. Esko 25-22, 25-21, 25-19 -- C: Ava Carlson 15K, 5D, 4B; Aili Buytaert 7K; Blyth Proulx 4K, 3B; Quinn Danielson 2AS, 16D; Carly Johnson 4K, 16D, 23SA;. E: Gabby Martenson 7K; Kyra Johnson 13K, 3B; Kallie Sinnott 4K; Lizzie Hartlieb 8D; Kaitlin Lattner 21SA

Jake Przytarski is a reporter for the Cloquet Pine Journal covering a mix of news and sports.
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