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Wrens, Cards battle in tough match

Cromwell-Wright's Zayde Smith gets a kill past the defense of Wrenshall's Jenna Johnson on Thursday, Sept. 20. Dave Harwig / Pine Journal 1 / 4
Cromwell-Wright's Taya Hakamaki makes a kill off the block attempt of Wrenshall's Paige Johnson. Dave Harwig / Pine Journal2 / 4
Wrenshall's Emily Adkins makes a kill attempt past the defense of Cromwell-Wright's Zayde Smith during the Thursday, Sept. 20, match. Dave Harwig / Pine Journal3 / 4
Wrenshall's Ashley Johnson makes a kill past Cromwell-Wright's Jordan Jokinen on Thursday, Sept. 20. Dave Harwig / Pine Journal4 / 4

Two of the Northland's better volleyball teams collided Thursday, Sept. 20, at Wrenshall High School — and Cromwell-Wright got revenge for a very close loss suffered last year at the hands of the Wrens.

Amy Granholm's team won the match 25-20, 25-22, 25-18, but said at times, it could have gone either way.

"We were two evenly matched teams," Granholm said. "If Wrenshall had won one of those sets, I think we would probably have gone to five sets overall. But I think we hustled a little more than they did and that made the difference."

Taya Hakamaki had 14 kills and 12 set assists for the Cardinals, while Shaily Hakamaki had 12 kills, 10 digs and was a perfect 11 for 11 in the service game. Zayde Smith had five kills and 19 set assists while the team served 90 percent as a whole.

"We went through a bit of a rough patch last week, but Cromwell has a very nice, young, quick team," Granholm said. "We beat them in five sets last year but they deserved to win when we played."

Thiel has a veteran team led by five seniors on the ten-player varsity team. Paige Johnson, Ashley Johnson, Abby Belcastro, Emily Adkins and Cheyanne Carlson have been playing together for years.

"Not just in school, but in Junior Olympics as well," Thiel said. "We have very good chemistry and these girls know what they need to do out there. When you have played with your setter for five years, they have a feel for each other."

With five seniors, though, Thiel knows that getting her younger players some match experience is vital.

"Some of the older girls had a bit of a rough time understanding why the younger girls needed to play more sometimes," Thiel said. "We're trying to rebuild the program long term, and that means they need to play. The young girls have big shoes to fill and at first, when they would go in for an older girl, they'd be nervous. But the more they do it, the better they cope."

Granholm, on the other hand, has a team of competitors.

"They all play hard," Granholm said. "They all have such passion and desire to win."

Smith and the Hakamakis are leaders, but the Cardinals are an athletic, talented team that is used to winning.

"We talk about playing at that higher level all the time," Granholm said. "Sometimes you have to use some mental imagery, but that's the mindset we want from our players all the time — playing at the higher level we need to succeed. Wrenshall helped with that. We were pumped to play them and see how it went."

Both coaches, however, point to Carlton as the team to beat in the section playoffs.

"I think we're one of the top two or three teams in the section but Carlton is known for being good," Thiel said. "Cromwell looks great, too, and I hope that with our good group we can get farther than we got last year (the second round of the playoffs.) With so many seniors, they will have passion and drive to want to finish some things."

"Carlton is the favorite," Granholm said. "When we talk, we talk about them a lot and how we have to be excellent to compete against them. Our goal is just to continuously improve, get faster and play at a higher level. Getting physically tired has happened to us and I don't want that to happen this year."