Ely’s balance makes difference

Wolves overcome Reichensperger, Northeast Range in v-ball opener

by Tom Coombe
Volleyball matches can turn on a dime, and that seemed to happen Tuesday at Ely’s high school gymnasium.
Powered by NCAA Division I-bound Hannah Reichensperger, visiting Northeast Range won the second set and was on the verge of taking the third when it jumped to a 23-21 lead.
But as quickly as the Nighthawks gained the advantage, Ely answered right back.
The Timberwolves scored four straight points, with Kellen Thomas’s kill giving Ely the set and the momentum it needed to go on to a four-set victory in the season-opener.
Scores were 25-18, 21-25, 25-23 and 25-18 as the Wolves gave new head coach Megan Wognum a victory in her debut leading the program.
It wasn’t an easy win, and the Nighthawks nearly rode Reichensperger’s power to an early-season upset.
Reichensperger was a force at the net and nearly unstoppable when she got the ball in the middle.
She finished with a match-high 23 kills, most coming in the second and third sets when Northeast Range had its finest moments.
But the Wolves, who have five starters back from a team that went unbeaten in a COVID-abbreviated 2020 campaign, showed their experience and rode out the storm.
To counter Reichnesperger’s presence, Ely showed off tremendous balance with four players recording at least seven kills.
Thomas, one of several seniors and a returning All-Arrowhead Conference selection, led the way with 11 kills, 12 digs and three blocks.
“We had multiple players contribute to the game,” said Wognum, an assistant coach in the program the last five years. “ It was nice to see everyone playing an important role in the match. We did a great job of sticking with it after losing the second set. I am proud of them for fighting to get the “W” even after they got knocked down.”
Ely grabbed an early lead in the first set and went on to a comfortable win, but the Nighthawks showed they meant business in the second.
They capitalized on unforced Wolves errors and passed the ball to Reichensperger.
The visitors followed a similar formula in the third, building a 14-8 lead before the Wolves rattled off six straight points to tie it up.
It stayed close throughout the rest of the set, with the Wolves’ 4-0 run at the end proving to be the difference.
Ely’s balance and depth began to take hold in the fourth, and the hosts foiled Northeast Range’s quest for a comeback.
The Wolves also seemed to do a better job of neutralizing the Nighthawk offense.
“We had a few blocks that kept us fueled and focused,” said Wognum.
Junior Kate Coughlin recorded 10 kills and seven digs for the winners and classmate Madelne Kallberg was next with nine kills.
Rachel Coughlin, also a junior, had 12 digs and six blocks to go with her seven kills and senior Charly Flom contributed six digs.
Ely’s senior setter - Katrina Seliskar - passed her way to 46 set assists and added three ace serves.
Reichensperger, who needs 16 more kills to get to 1,000 for her prep career, also had 17 digs and four blocks and teammate Natalie Nelmark chipped in with eight kills.
Maizy Sunblad delivered 29 set assists for the Nighthawks.
The Wolves are gearing up for a busy week that includes road tilts at Littlefork-Big Falls (Tuesday) and Cherry (Thursday), followed by a date in the Sept. 11 Greenway Tournament.