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'Jacks rebound from tough loss, beat Rebels

The Cloquet volleyball team rebounded from its first loss of the season in fine style last week — defeating Eveleth-Gilbert 3-0 last Thursday and Moose Lake-Willow River 3-1 Tuesday night in Cloquet.

The Lumberjacks (4-1) defeated the Rebels (3-3) by 25-21, 18-25, 25-21, 25-16.

Savannah Sears had 11 kills for Cloquet, along with 15 digs and four blocks. Alanha Ninneman had 10 kills, two ace serves and two blocks while Natalie Spath added 19 digs. Olivia Diver had 18 set assists and three ace serves; Emerson Rock had 15 set assists and three ace serves; and Ellie Peddle had six kills and three blocks.

The Rebels were led by setter DonnaMae Smith, who had 24 set assists. Maddie Olson added 11 kills and three blocks and Ellen Anderson had nine kills. Jamie Benzie had 18 digs.

"We put on the gas in the third and fourth sets and finished things out," Cloquet coach Heidi Anderson said. "We had some kids play very well — Savannah Sears pounded the ball and we got a lot of kids a chance to play."

That win, coupled with a 3-0 win over the Golden Bears, might have Cloquet back on the upward trend Anderson wants to see.

"This was a good test for us," Anderson said. "We did a nice job of blocking them; they had several kids who could really hit and their setter (Smith) is very talented."

"We went to sleep mentally in the fourth set," Rebels coach Beckie Jackson said. "The first three sets we played well and showed we can hang with a good team like Cloquet. "But our fourth set was not very good."

Jackson's struggles have been with the Rebels' defensive work.

"Serve receive and defense have been real points of emphasis for us," she said. "We've had practices where we do nothing but pass the ball. I'm not worried about us offensively — when we get into the offense we have lots of hitters — but we have to be better in those other phases of the game."

"We're coming off a tournament at Pine City where we didn't play well or pass well," Jackson added. "So this was important to us to try to be better in that way."

Meanwhile, Cloquet gets a home win under its belt just before a difficult stretch of schedule.

"We are at North Branch, which I think is top-ranked in the state in our class, and then we play Carlton again and they're getting Top 10 votes in their class," Anderson said. "Then it's Princeton and we turn around to play Greenway again, who are always good. We've gotten to work on some things and when we see strong teams, our section favorites, we need to be able to run our offense and we've been able to work on those things."

Meanwhile, Jackson is hoping to build her season around Smith.

"DonnaMae is so talented and reads the other team so well," she said. "She makes very few mistakes, but we send her running all over the place to set sometimes when we don't pass well. She is a quiet leader, who leads by example. I'm thankful for her."

The Rebels face Esko on Thursday at home and then play three straight Monday nights.

"We run three matches a week for the next few weeks and we travel to Cherry on Monday, which is a grind of a trip," Jackson said. We are looking to see who our gamers are — the people who instinctively know when the game is on the line. It's hard to develop: you either have the gamers or you don't. We're looking for the small growth after every game and more consistency in what we do."

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