Another step up for Ely in volleyball?

Sophomores Kallberg, Mattson head young but potent lineup

by Tom Coombe
The Ely Timberwolves suffered through some growing pains last fall but came on strong at the end - even winning a section playoff match.
Now they’re out to pick up where they left off when the high school volleyball season begins Tuesday night.
Ely hosts Northeast Range at 7 p.m. Tuesday, kicking off a season full of high hopes.
Four starters return and a handful of others saw plenty of court time in 2016, when the Wolves suffered several five-game defeats but still managed 10 victories, including one in the opening round of the Section 7A tournament.
This fall, the Wolves hope to take another step forward and close out close games, climb over the .500 mark and make a deeper posteason run.
“We talked about team goals the other day and most of them talked about making it past the second round,” said Andrea Thomas, who begins her second year of her second stint as Ely’s head coach. “That’s doable. I’d love to see us get significantly over .500. There were so many close games last year that could have easily gone our way. Now we have another year of experience and hopefully we’ll be able to improve and win those games.”
A pair of talented sophomores leads a deep Ely team.
Brielle Kallberg, who was selected to play in a regional all-star game last fall and earned all-conference honors, is the Wolves’ middle hitter and will team with classmate Erika Mattson to form a potent one-two hitting punch. Kallberg paced the Wolves last fall with a team-high 325 kills, including 23 in a first-round playoff win.
Junior setter Lida Dodge also returns and will direct traffic, passing to Ely’s array of hitters.
Ely’s lone senior is Kalley Fischer, a three-year starter, former All-Arrowhead honoree and a top defender. She’ll don the libero jersey this fall.
Youth will continue to be served in the Ely lineup, with sophomore hitters Jenna Merhar and Winter Sainio looking to play bigger roles in the front row, and ninth-grader McKenna Coughlin stepping in as a right-side hitter.
One of Ely’s most versatile players is junior Kenzie Peterson, who played extensively in 2016.
“She’s a valuable one,” said Thomas. ‘She knows all three hitting positions and has experience.”
Sophomore Ana Bercher adds to the Wolves’ depth in the back row while junior McCartney Kaercher is the back-up setter and saw time in last weekend’s scrimmages at Hibbing on the right side.
While the results won’t go on their record, the scrimmages provided a sneak peak of what to expect this fall, and Thomas came away impressed.
“In the first two games we got out the kinks, and the rest of the day we played really well,” said Thomas. “It was fun to see. The girls were smiling and having fun. We really played well as a team.I think we’ve got a lot of talent, but it takes more than that. You need to play together to make it all work.”
The Wolves begin to put their talent to the test this week against local rival Northeast Range in a rare early-season home appearance. Five of Ely’s first six dates are away from home before a Sept. 18 home tilt with Silver Bay.
Thomas is assisted by Megan Wognum, who will coach Ely’s B-squad. Numbers are prevalent in the program, with more than 30 players in grades 7-12. Kristi Johnson coaches the junior high team.