Thunderhawks stymie 'Jacks again in 7AAA final
November 10, 2023
The dream season for the Cloquet volleyball team came to an end Thursday night in Hermantown when the Lumberjacks fell 3-0 to Grand Rapids in the Section 7AAA title game for the third season in a row.
The Thunderhawks raced out to a big lead in the first game and that seemed to set the 'Jacks on their heels. By the time Cloquet responded, the writing was on the wall - they would be one set down. The Thunderhawks captured the first game 25-16.
"When we beat them in the regular season, they did not have their libero, so I think that made a big difference," said Cloquet head coach Heidi Anderson. "They picked up everything off the floor. We made some shots that most teams would not have picked up, but they did. They also just didn't make any mistakes in that first game, which always makes it difficult."
Cloquet answered quickly to start Game 2. They built up a strong lead, but eventually the Thunderhawks went on a mid-game roll and then surged ahead at the end of the game to take the win 25-22.
"It was tough to lose that second game after we had the lead," Anderson said. "At that point you realize you now have to win three in a row. Knowing our team, I was confident we could do that, but it just didn't happen."
The Lumberjacks got a number of big individual performances, but as a whole they struggled to contain the Thunderhawks offense.
"They came out with a big block to try and stop Ava Carlson at the net," Anderson said.
Game 3 was a back-and-forth affair that Grand Rapids eventually won 27-25, but both teams alternated the lead up to the end.
"I was really proud of our team's effort," Anderson said. "Despite losing 3-0, statistically the numbers are almost dead even. We had the same number of hit attempts, almost the same number of kills. Just about all the stats were even, but they won, and that's how volleyball can be."
Carlson hammered home 14 kills for Cloquet and added 16 digs and two blocks. Blythe Proulx chipped in with nine kills and two blocks. Carly Johnson had four kills, one ace serve, 15 digs and 23 set assists. Ella Maslowski contributed 11 set assists and 11 digs. Quinn Danielson made 12 digs and Josie Lindstrom had four kills and three blocks.
"I am so proud of the season the girls had," Anderson said. "They won the conference. They had 25 wins, which I think is the most in school history and, honestly, it stings. When you put in so much work and to know that we weren't going to go back to practice on Monday was really tough."
The Lumberjacks, who finished with a record of 25-3, will lose five seniors off this year's squad.
"All those seniors were willing to put in the work," Anderson said. "They set a big goal of winning the section and everyone in the area knew it. I am proud of all of them."