Dynamic duo leads Ely girls

by Tom Coombe
If high school athletes could qualify for a pension, Erika Mattson and Brielle Kallberg would be vested.
Both senior standouts have been part of the Timberwolves’ varsity team for six years and starters for five, and they provide a potent one-two punch as Ely opens the 2019-20 high school girls basketball campaign Tuesday at Nashwauk-Keewatin.
Mattson has developed into one of the deadliest three-point shooters in northeastern Minnesota while Kallberg, a state track qualifier and an NCAA Division II volleyball recruit, is one of the best athletes in Section 7A.
They’ll team with fellow senior Winter Sainio to provide both talent and leadership to an otherwise young, and relatively inexperienced, Ely team.
“We have a lot of key people back with Winter, Brielle and Erika and then it gets to a lot of youth,” said Ely Head Coach Darren Visser. “We go from three experienced players down to a lot of younger players.”
Mattson tied a school record last winter with 619 points and currently ranks third on the school’s all-time scoring charts.
The three-time All-Arrowhead Conference honoree also set a program record by sinking 11 three-point shots and netting a career-high 44 points in a January win over Littlefork-Big Falls.
Kallberg, meanwhile, was Ely’s leading rebounder, a key cog in the team’s pressure defense and a frequent scoring threat.
“Erika is just one of those players that when she’s done here will have set a number of records for Ely girls basketball,” said Visser. “She rebounds well and does a lot of things well, and somebody like Brielle is not far behind either. Between those two they both bring a lot of experience that a lot of people don’t always have.”
Sainio rounds out Ely’s senior trio and provides height and rebounding strength inside.
The Wolves will also look to sophomore Ande Visser down low, while two eighth-graders - Grace LaTourell and Sarah Visser - both got opportunities in the varsity lineup a year ago.
“We had some different illnesses and injuries at the end of last year that allowed for a lot of opportunities for our eighth and ninth-graders to get in. Coming into this year that’s nice as they got their feet wet and this is not all new.”
Ely won 15 games last winter but fell victim to a first-round playoff upset, but the Wolves are looking to improve on that this winter.
“We always like to be in that top third of the section,” said Visser. “I know with some of these younger players there will be spells here where we take some lumps. But I think by the end of the year we can be jiving well going into playoffs.”