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On to the postseason

Volleyball team rides hot streak as it begins defense of 7A crown

by Tom Coombe

Heavy is the head that wears the crown?

Not if one asks the Ely Timberwolves.

The high school volleyball team has been nothing short of dominant against section competition this fall, completing its perfect slate against Section 7A foes with two easy wins this week, including Tuesday’s 55-minute sweep of visiting Bigfork.

Ely, 22-5 and winners of 11 straight since a difficult trip to the Class A Showcase in Burnsville in late-September, has earned the top seed in the 7A playoffs and begins defense of its 7A title with a Wednesday night home tilt that begins at 7 p.m.

Deer River, Northeast Range and Littlefork-Big Falls are the potential opponents for Ely’s opener, and whoever comes to town figures to be the sacrificial lamb as the Wolves get back to work.

Other than the 2020 season, when an unbeaten Ely team was denied a postseason opportunity when the season was scrapped midstream because of the Covid pandemic, the Wolves have reached the 7A final four in every season since 2018.

Last year marked both the Wolves’ first trip to the 7A title tilt, and the program’s first-ever 7A championship and state tournament berth.

Several key players return from that team and they’ve been joined by a slew of youngsters who helped Ely roll through the Arrowhead Conference and 7A opposition.

The Wolves have twice swept the second-rated team in the section - area rival North Woods - and also picked up a sweep against Floodwood in a tournament matchup at Aurora earlier in the month.

Floodwood figures to be the top seed in the south half of the section, and if Ely picks up wins as expected both Wednesday and Friday this week, it would likely meet South Ridge in a Nov. 1 7A semifinal.  The title game is set for Nov. 4, with both the semifinals and finals taking place at the new Rock Ridge school near Virginia.

• It was Senior Night Tuesday, and the Wolves honored seniors Hannah Penke, Sarah Visser and Aubree Gerlovich prior to the meeting with Bigfork.

Ely celebrated in style, opening up a 22-5 lead in the first set and rolling on to the wins.

Six different Wolves had ace serves in the victory, with Penke delivering five and sophomore Sadie Rechichi delivering three more.

At the net, the visiting Huskies had no counter to Ely’s arsenal of weapons.

Lilli Rechichi and Penke took turns delivering kills and finished with nine each, while freshman Audrey Kallberg notched six and junior Claire Thomas wound up with five.

Thomas also paced Ely defensively with 13 digs, and Sadie Rechichi was next with six.

Freshman Charlotte Hegman contributed three kills for the winners,

• Visser passed the ball around Monday at Grand Marais, finishing with a match-high 36 set assists in Ely’s 25-12, 25-11, 25-7 sweep.

Lilli Rechichi (14) and Hannah Penke (10) both reached double digits in kills with Thomas and Kallberg adding five each.

Thomas also had five ace serves with Amelia Penke adding another three, with Kallberg (13) and Visser (10) both had double digits in digs.

• Lilli Rechichi had 13 kills, while Thomas and Hannah Penke both added eight as Ely cruised past Nashwauk-Keewatin 25-16, 25-13, 25-6 in an Oct. 12 home sweep.

Visser added another 33 set assists in the win and Hegman came up with five ace serves.

• The playoff home games this week are coordinated by Region 7A and no local passes will be accepted.

Ticket prices are $10 for adults and $5 for students and available at the door.

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