'Jacks volleyball faces tests before playoffs
October 13, 2023
To say the Cloquet volleyball team has been on a tear would be putting things mildly. The Lumberjacks are 22-2 on the season. They won 15 straight matches in September and, after a narrow loss to Hermantown, have won three matches in a row with two matches left in the regular season.
On Thursday, Oct. 5, Cloquet marked its senior night by defeating Superior, 25-14, 25-23, 25-21. With 17 assists in the match, senior setter Carly Johnson surpassed 1,000 career set assists the same night. Johnson's milestone was another highlight in a season that also included Ava Carlson marking her 1,000th kill last month.
"In my 20 years as coach, I haven't had two players that reached those milestones in the same season," head coach Heidi Anderson said.
The team is loaded with players who have plenty of high school and Junior Olympic program experience.
"We have a lot of strong players, but I think that has to do with each of them embracing their own particular role," Anderson said. "We have 12 players, and all of them have a job to do and they work very hard at making sure they can do that job to the best of their abilities."
Other highlights from Thursday included 18 kills and 10 digs by Carlson, 20 digs by Quinn Danielson and 13 set assists by Ella Maslowski.
Five seniors have proven their leadership in some form or another throughout the season, Anderson said.
"Blythe Proulx has taken the lead of the mids, Ava is our vocal leader and Quinn Danielson takes charge of our defense," Anderson said. "Carly leads our setters at getting the offense in the right position and Lexi Niemi helps lead our outside hitters."
"What the season has come down to is the girls made it to the section finals the last two years, and they are hungry to make that next step," Anderson said. "I am not surprised at the record we have, based on their desire to improve and learn every day."
The Section 7AAA will be a tough section to get out of again this season, as Hermantown, Grand Rapids and North Branch all are in the running.
"We've been focused all season long on the things we need to do to get out of sections," Anderson said. "These other teams will not give away points, so we have to find ways to get the ball down on the floor, and that's what we've been working on."
The team has embraced a growing fan base and a raucous atmosphere.
"We've played in front of some big crowds, and the girls seem to raise their level of play when we have bigger crowds," Anderson said. "We have a lot of multisport athletes; they love to play, and they are confident because they've put the work in."
Anderson said the younger players have also been a crucial part of the success.
"Every single player has given a full effort every day. They are pushing each other to get better and that shows," the coach said.
Cloquet's final two matches might show how the sections will go. The team was set to host Grand Rapids Thursday in a rematch of the 2021 and 2022 Section 7AAA final. The 'Jacks will be in Hermantown for the finale on Tuesday.
"Those will be games where we can really see where we are at," Anderson said.