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Lumberjacks stay hot with sweep

The Cloquet volleyball team raced to a fast start this season, a trend that continued with a sweep of Moose Lake/Willow River on Tuesday at Moose Lake Area School.

Cloquet won the first set 25-15, and the second set 25-16. Each of those sets were tight battles in the early going, but the Lumberjacks took control and distanced themselves from ML/WR in both games, thanks to timely kills from Ava Carlson, who finished with 22 kills on the night. The Rebels were unwilling to quit in an extended third set, which ended 32-30 for Cloquet.

Lucky number 1,000 beckons two Cloquet players: Ava Carlson is closing in on 1,000 kills for her career, while Carly Johnson should also finish the season with 1,000 career set assists, Cloquet head coach Heidi Anderson said.

Opportunity came from Cloquet on many unforced errors from the Rebels offense. Those errors led to several points and runs which distanced the 'Jacks in the first two sets. Carly Johnson added 14 set assists while contributing seven kills on the night and Quinn Danielson added 15 digs on the night.

Rebels head coach Caitlin Miller said many on her team haven't had a lot of playing time in the past, but they're getting experience quickly playing a number of quality programs.

"We are trying to improve each and every match," Miller said, adding "with our inexperience, we need to focus on doing the little things and not make mental errors."

The Rebels Caitlyn Andrews made some remarkable plays, including several spectacular digs and 16 kills. Jorga Jusczak also made many digs for the Rebels and freshman Keely Alleman had numerous blacks and timely kills for the Rebels in the loss.

"That third set we jumped out quickly to a nice lead, we made some rotations and changes and we kind of lost our focus, which allowed the momentum to switch," Anderson said. "It was a battle till the end."

Both teams had the opportunity to win that third set. With the Rebels leading 30-29, Cloquet rattled off three consecutive points to win the set and the match, as Carlson added two kills and Danielson closed out the last two serves for the Lumberjacks, adding an ace serve which gave the Lumberjacks the lead 31-30.

"The Rebels fought hard, and it showed our team we need to always fight and never let off the gas," Anderson said, adding that it was a good learning experience "to be in those tight close matches."

The Rebels fell to 2-7 with the loss Tuesday, after playing seven matches in the last five days. The stretch started with 7AA runner-up Esko last Thursday, four matches in Greenway Saturday and games in Mora Monday night. The lone win came over Cherry in the Greenway tournament. ML/WR was back in action again Thursday when they welcomed South Ridge to Moose Lake.

Cloquet's fast start sees them now with an overall record of 8-1, but they will have several upcoming tests, including tournaments at Duluth East on Sept 23 and a 12-team tournament in Mora Sept. 30. They also have some big matches against Esko, Hermantown, Grand Rapids and Superior ahead. The Lumberjacks were scheduled to host the Proctor Rails on Thursday in a Lake Superior Conference matchup after this week's Pine Knot News went to press.

Last weekend, on Sept. 9, the 'Jacks finished third out of eight teams at the 41st Annual Volleyball Tournament of Roses at Becker High School in Becker, Minn. Cloquet beat PACT Charter and Holy Family Catholic, while falling to Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted and St. Cloud Tech.