'Jacks use depth to overwhelm Rebels in sweep
Cloquet was at full strength for the first time this season with middle hitter Blythe Proulx returning from injury.
CLOQUET — With the return of junior middle hitter Blythe Proulx to the starting lineup, Cloquet was at full strength for the first time this season in its match against Moose Lake/Willow River on Tuesday, Sept. 13.
The additional depth on the front row proved too much for the visiting Rebels to handle in the three-set match, as the Lumberjacks rattled off set wins of 25-14, 25-16 and 25-10 for the sweep in front of the home crowd at Cloquet Middle School.
Cloquet coach Heidi Anderson said the addition of Proulx allows the team to try out different combinations of players on the floor, among other benefits.
“It was kind of fun to be able to do some different combinations,” Anderson said. “Blythe was a starter for us much of the year last year so it’s nice to have her back. She’s got a lot of game experience and a nice block and just good chemistry with the team.”
Proulx trailed only Aili Buytaert (11) and Ava Carlson (11) in kills with four for the match.
Moose Lake/Willow River coach Caitlin Miller said trying to limit the impact of the big three for Cloquet is where her club ultimately fell short.
“I felt like we played pretty well overall. We kept our spirits up and fought the whole time,” Miller said. “Just defensively against some good hitters is where we struggled. They were able to find the holes and we weren’t able to get there.”
The Lumberjacks battled through a sluggish start in the opening set, but never trailed on their way to a 25-14 victory. The Rebels managed to draw even at seven apiece early on, but were outscored 18-7 the rest of the way thanks in part to an extended streak at the service line from Buytaert.
Anderson highlighted the serving performance of Buytaert, Quinn Danielson and Carlson for their momentum-building runs in each of the three sets.
“We had a few kids go on a nice streak,” Anderson said. “Quinn (Danielson) had a nice streak of serves in the third set. Ava Carlson did in the second set and Aili Buytaert did in the first game. So just getting the other team scrambling and out of system gives us an opportunity to make it a little easier on our defense when they’re scrambling on their serve receive.”
Cloquet appeared poised to run away with the second set after pulling ahead 13-6 with the court completely tilted in their favor. The Rebels, powered by kills leader Sarah Christy and assists leader Jorja Jusczak, managed to climb all the way back to within three points late in the frame at 19-16.
After a quick timeout to regroup, the ‘Jacks went on to take the set 25-16 following a six-point streak guided by Carlson at the service line.
Though her team wasn’t rewarded with a victory in any of the three sets, Miller praised the performance of setter Jusczak, who was all over the court diving for the ball.
“Jorja is one of our players who will lay it all out there and sacrifice her body … She was on everything in that game,” Miller said.
On the other side of the net, Cloquet setter Carly Johnson was equal to the task after racking up a match-high 19 set assists to go along with nine digs. Fellow setter Ella Maslowski finished with 14 and three kills.
The pair were on the same page with the team’s hitters throughout the first two sets, and continued the trend into the third where the ‘Jacks ran away with a convincing 25-10 victory to seal the match.
The Lumberjacks will have a week off before returning to their home court on Tuesday, Sept. 20, for a match against Rock Ridge. The Rebels will travel to Culver for their next match against South Ridge on Thursday, Sept. 15 at 7 p.m.