Volleyball team upset in five games

Hill City seizes momentum in fifth, ends Wolves’ season

by Tom Coombe -

The Ely Timberwolves and Hill City Hornets couldn’t have played a closer match Wednesday night, splitting 212 points in a nearly two-hour marathon at the high school gymnasium..
With momentum shifting, the audience on the edge of its seat and the season hanging in the balance, Hill City did just enough in the decisive fifth game to upset the Timberwolves in a Section 7A volleyball thriller.
The Hornets erased a 6-1 deficit in the final game and pulled out a 19-25, 25-22, 25-21, 22-25, 15-13 victory.
Hill City, seeded sixth in the north half of 7A, advanced to a Friday night quarterfinal at Northwoods while the loss ended Ely’s best season in better than two decades.
The third-seeded Timberwolves finished 19-8 and with broken hearts.
“It was a tough loss to swallow,” said Ely Head Coach Andrea Thomas. “These girls fought until the end, and that is all I could ask for. I am so proud of them all.”
The Wolves staved off elimination in the fourth game and seemed to have things going their way in the fifth.
Back-to-back kills by Brielle Kallberg, who finished with 17 for the night, along with a kill by Jenna Merhar gave the Wolves a 6-1 lead.
Hill City clawed back, seized momentum, rattling the Wolves when junior setter Lida Dodge was injured.
The Hornets grabbed an 8-6 edge and had the Wolves on the ropes, but Ely wasn’t done.
The Wolves countered and led 10-9, and the fifth game was tied at 11, 12 and 13 before the Hornets grabbed the last two points.
“They could have fallen apart in set 5 when Lida got hurt, but they continued to battle,” Thomas said of her team. “McCartney Kaercher came into a stressful situation after sitting on the bench for four-and-a-half sets and did a great job filling in.”
The Wolves racked up 19 wins in part because of their hard-hitting attack, but Hill City neutralized it in part with its blocking game.
“I give Hill City credit, they did a good job blocking us and we had to work around the block,” said Thomas.
Ely was also frustrated at times by a series of double-hit calls that resulted in points for the Hornets.
Sophomore Erika Mattson had 13 kills and 21 digs for the Wolves, while classmates Jenna Merhar (10) and Winter Sainio (seven) were next in line. Ninth-grader McKenna Coughlin added five kills.
Dodge wound up with 42 set assists and 10 digs, and senior Kalley Fischer had 11 digs in her final match.
“This team had a great season and has grown so much in the last year,” said Thomas. “Senior Kalley Fischer leaves some big shoes to fill at the libero position, but having a solid core returning next year is exciting. As emotional of a loss as it was tonight, hearing the girls say they wish they could keep practicing proves that the desire for the game and improvement is there. The future is bright for this team!”