Wolves fall to defending state champs
The Ely girls volleyball team gave the defending state champs a run for their money but Mayer Lutheran cashed in a trip to the semifinals with a 3-1 win.
Ely fell 26-15 in the first set but dealt Mayer Lutheran a 26-24 loss in the second before a large Ely crowd at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. ML didn’t lose a set last year in the state tournament.
The next two sets didn’t go Ely’s way, with ML picking up 25-12 and 25-11 wins to advance.
The Wolves will now face Pine River/Backes at 3 p.m. for a chance to advance to the Consolation Championship on Saturday.
by Tom Coombe
Floodwood created some anxious moments on Saturday afternoon, but in the end the Polar Bears were just another victim of Ely’s undefeated volleyball juggernaut.
After splitting the first two sets, the Timberwolves caught fire in the third and never looked back, clinching the school’s first-ever Section7A volleyball title and state tournament berth with a four-set victory at Hermantown.
It was the 29th consecutive win for the Wolves, but it didn’t come without a fight.
Ely, which got 15 kills from junior Hannah Penke, needed a late rally to win the first set and stumbled in the second.
But sets three and four belonged entirely to the Wolves, who cruised 25-22, 22-25, 25-10, 25-13 before a raucous crowd of nearly 1,000 fans.
Ely, which will open play in the State Class A quarterfinals Thursday at St. Paul’s Xcel Center, was tight at times during the opening two sets and had trouble containing Floodwood outside hitter Kenzie Kiminski, who had 11 kills.
But all but two of those came in the first two sets and Ely unleashed its arsenal of weapons on the Polar Bears (23-9) in the third.
After falling behind 4-2, the Wolves rattled off seven straight points to take control of both the set and the match.
A 10-0 run was punctuated by an ace serve from senior Madeline Kallberg and was part of a stretch where the Wolves could seemingly do no wrong.
Penke did damage with a string of cross court hits while sisters Rachel and Kate Couhglin, both seniors, as well as sophomore Lilli Rechichi stepped up to block Floodwood’s attack at the net.
A monster kill from Rachel Coughlin closed out the third set and Floodwood never seemed to recover.
Rechichi had a key block and a big kill in a 7-2 spurt to open the fourth set and soon the Wolves would lead 16-5.
It seemed then that it was only a matter of time before the Wolves would make history, and it came with back-to-back kills from Penke and Rachel Coughlin, securing both the win and the 7A title.
The Wolves were playing in their first section championship game after reaching the final four of the section in 2018, 2019, 2021 and again this year. In 2020, no tournament was held because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Seeding for the state tournament will be completed Sunday morning.