Cloquet senior Brenna McClarey recorded 10 kills and two blocks to lead the Lumberjacks to a 25-9, 25-21, 25-16 sweep of Duluth Marshall in their home opener Thursday, Oct. 15.

Coach Heidi Anderson was happy with the team’s play and its progress since the beginning of the season. Anderson said setters Morgan Van Reese and Emerson Rock have been distributing the ball more evenly the last two games — which includes a four set win at Duluth East Tuesday, Oct. 13 — than in the team’s season-opening loss to Hermantown.

Cloquet's Breea Rasmussen (1) hits outside against Marshall Thursday, Oct. 15, at Cloquet Middle School. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)
Cloquet's Breea Rasmussen (1) hits outside against Marshall Thursday, Oct. 15, at Cloquet Middle School. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)

“Against Hermantown we were setting to the outside a lot to Breea Rasmussen and Eva Carlson, and so it gets pretty predictable for the other team to play defense when you know who's getting the ball,” Anderson said. “You can put up a big block position in your defense that way. We've really been working in practice on trying to even out the distribution a little bit to involve our middles. Brenna and Keelee (Grashorn) are running a quicker set, so it's a harder one to get that timing down.”

Rock finished the game with 11 set assists and VanReese had 10 and added four ace serves to the effort.

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Cloquet dropped its first two games of the season to Hermantown and Grand Rapids, but Anderson sees the team’s experience shining through even with just an extra week of practice. The Lumberjacks lost just one player to graduation — middle hitter Lucy Sinkkonen — and returns an experienced core.

“With the daily changes, it helps to have an experienced group that I’ve worked with and has worked with each other,” Anderson said. “First you say, ‘We’re going to play in March,' but actually we’re going to have a season right now — you don’t have a lot of time to get things in place. So I think that was definitely to our benefit.”

While the team was still working out its lineup against Hermantown and Grand Rapids, the Lumberjacks have settled in. Against Duluth Marshall, the team also was able to get most of its players on the floor for extended periods and gain valuable experience.

What’s more, the team is coming together despite COVID-19 restrictions. Typically, volleyball teams are cheering loudly, with high fives and hugs to celebrate each point.

“It’s a little bit weird and it takes some getting used to, to go out and not be able to high five,” Anderson said. “They’ve done so many studies on how touch is so important in building a close cohesive team, but then you’re not allowed to touch ... Your brain is having to constantly remember that we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and it was hard for us to just focus on playing volleyball.”

After spring sports were canceled because of the pandemic, the Lumberjacks are taking advantage of any games they can get in this fall.

“We don't even know what our postseason might look like and so we're trying to enjoy each match,” Anderson said. "We know that we have a lot of potential, a lot of kids working hard and experience and the potential to win many games.”

Cloquet (2-2) are next scheduled to play at Carlton at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 20, and host Eveleth-Gilbert at 7 p.m. Oct. 22.

Cloquet def. Duluth Marshall 25-9, 25-21, 25-16. C: Brenna McClarey 10K, 2B; Keelee Grashorn 6K, 5AS, 2B; Emerson Rock 11SA, 2AS; Morgan VanReese 10SA, 4AS; Laura Hecht 3AS, 14D; Breea Rasmussen 5AS. DM: Lydia Bacigalupo 10D; Sydney Cummins 11D, 9SA; Ella Semaan 10D, 5K, 2AS.