FIELD TWP – If the high school volleyball season had to end last Friday, and it did per Gov. Tim Walz’s latest executive order, it went out with a bang in the North Woods School …
FIELD TWP – If the high school volleyball season had to end last Friday, and it did per Gov. Tim Walz’s latest executive order, it went out with a bang in the North Woods School gym.
Undefeated Ely finished the season that way, but not before the Grizzlies made a statement that they could stand toe-to-toe with the Timberwolves in a hard-fought 3-2 Ely win.
“North Woods played good defense and made our hitters make adjustments to find ways to terminate the ball,” acknowledged Ely Head Coach Andrea Thomas following the match.
The Grizzlies came out hot, surprisingly going up on the Timberwolves by as many as seven points early before Ely fought back to tie the game 13-13. North Woods didn’t buckle as the teams alternated points and serves and held a 20-18 edge as Ely’s Kellen Thomas stepped up to serve.
The junior server fired three aces in a dominant 7-0 run capped by Rachel Coughlin’s game-winning kill to complete the comeback win 25-20.
The Timberwolves kept right on rolling in the second game, cruising to what seemed to be an insurmountable 14-5 lead. Ely was leading 16-8 when the Grizzlies’ Addy Hartway slammed a kill shot and took over at serve, setting the stage for a gutsy comeback.
Getting strong play at the net from Hannah Kinsey and Morgan Burnett, the Grizzlies reeled off six consecutive points to get back in the game 16-14. Skyler Yernatich connected on a deep crosscourt kill to pull North Woods to within 20-19 and a subsequent service ace by Abbigail Shuster knotted the score at 20. When a kill attempt by Ely’s Raven Sainio sailed long the upstart Grizzlies claimed an improbable 26-24 win.
“I think the girls realized that they were capable of going point-for-point with this team and that they had all the skills needed to win that game,” Grizzlies Head Coach Kandi Olson said. “When we would see our team fall behind in the past we really struggled.”
Neither team backed down in a third game that saw eight tied scores and three lead changes, with the final tie coming at 23-23. At the end of one of the longest rallies of the night an Ely shot fell out, and Yernatich followed up with a kill to the middle of the Timberwolves’ defense to give North Woods a 25-23 win and a 2-1 edge in the match.
But the undefeated Wolves didn’t get that way by buckling under pressure. “Every girl on this team had moments where they stepped up tonight,” said Thomas.
North Woods rode the wave of its success well into the fourth game, with Karah Scofield serving at 14-13 to tie the score. But Rachel Coughlin snuffed that threat with a kill, picked up another point on a block, then smashed down another spike to stake Ely to a 13-17 lead.
If the Timberwolves were in any sort of fog, Coughlin’s flurry shook them out of it. They closed out the game on an 8-3 run, getting strong play from McKenna Coughlin and Madeline Kallberg in the 25-16 win that tied the match at two games each.
Ely never trailed in the final game, methodically building an 8-4 lead before going on a 7-2 tear to win the game 15-6 and the match 3-2.
Olson was pleased with her team’s effort in the loss. “I don’t think anyone from Ely expected us to give them the match we did, she said. “We scared an undefeated team. I think if we had had a few weeks or even a game more than we did due to our breaks due to quarantine I think we would have scared a lot more.”
Kinsey and Hartway led the Grizzlies with ten and nine kills respectively, while Burnett dished out 36 set assists and Yernatich was the team leader in digs with 30.
Senior McKenna Coughlin led the way for Ely in the final game of her high school career, racking up 22 kills, 19 digs, four blocks and five ace serves. Rachel Coughlin added 12 kills, 19 digs, four blocks and three aces, while Thomas tallied nine kills, 18 digs, four blocks and four ace serves. Annikka Mattson tallied a team high 29 digs, while Kallberg posted 39 set assists.
“What a great season!” said Thomas after Ely clinched the win and a perfect 12-0 season. “After losing seven seniors last year, I think we surprised a lot of teams. These girls rolled with the punches that came with playing during a pandemic and kept the focus on good volleyball.”