Injuries can’t slow Wolves

Ely volleyball team adjusts its lineup and keeps on winning

by Tom Coombe
Even at less than full strength, the Ely Timberwolves are one of the most formidable teams in Section 7A.
That was evident earlier this week, as the high school volleyball team dominated two opponents even as it missed key players.
Senior standout Brielle Kallberg was out with an ankle injury for wins over Northeast Range and Lakeview Christian Academy, while fellow senior Jenna Merhar was also absent for Tuesday’s sweep of LCA.
The temporary absences did little to slow the Wolves, who got a boost each night from freshman Rachel Coughlin.
Coughlin had eight kills in both matches as the Wolves improved to 15-3 for the season.
“Offensively, Rachel started getting power behind her hits,” said Ely Head Coach Andrea Thomas.
The Wolves powered past Northeast Range Monday, winning 25-13, 25-6, 22-25, 25-12 at Babbitt.
The Wolves rattled off a series of points in the opening game with McKenna Coughlin on serve. The junior had a match-high 17 kills and three ace serves.
“I’m glad this was our only Monday night game,” said Thomas. “I don’t like coming into a match without practice the day before, it just feels like we have a hard time getting into our rhythm on the court. We played all right overall, struggling some with our tip coverage.”
Ely ran out to big leads in both of the first two games, never letting up in the second.
In game three, the Wolves were up 13-6 when the Nighthawks had their best run of the evening and rallied to extend the match
Northeast Range (4-12), which played without injured sophomore hitter Hannah Reichensperger, jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the fourth game but the Wolves soon regained their form.
Senior McCartney Kaercher led a run of 11 straight Ely points, netting several of her 10 ace serves during the surge
Kaercher also distributed the ball, finishing with 35 set assists.
Merhar had a big night at the net, coming up with 10 kills and three blocks, Senior Winter Sainio also had four kills.
The Wolves had little trouble with Lakeview Christian Academy, cruising 25-8, 25-6, 25-19 at the Vermilion Community College gymnasium.
“It was nice to see the girls play cohesively without Jenna and Brielle in the lineup,” said Thomas.
Mattson had nine kills and Rachel Coughlin added eight, and the Lions had trouble receiving Ely’s serves.
Sophomore Kellen Thomass had five aces, Sainio delivered four and both Kaercher and Mattson had three.
Kaercher also notched 25 set assists.
“It was a very slow tempo evening,” said Thomas. “ I was happy with our serving, McCartney and Kellen had some great consecutive serving strings in multiple sets.”
Ely, which remains ranked third in 7A behind state-rated Carlton and Greenway, hosted Bigfork Thursday at VCC and has a busy day ahead Saturday, with as many as four matches in the Mesabi East Tournament.
“We’re looking forward to the tournament at Mesabi East on Saturday,” said Thomas. “We will get to play a few more teams in our section that we don’t see during the regular season - Chishom, Barnum, and hopefully Floodwood.