ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Cook rallies Hibbing into state meet

CLOQUET -- The Hibbing volleyball team found itself reeling early in its Section 7AAA title match Thursday against Forest Lake when veteran Bluejackets coach Gail Nucech called upon her secret weapon: junior Alia Cook.

CLOQUET -- The Hibbing volleyball team found itself reeling early in its Section 7AAA title match Thursday against Forest Lake when veteran Bluejackets coach Gail Nucech called upon her secret weapon: junior Alia Cook.

Cook isn't an unknown in Hibbing, having been a starter last year and not being hard to spot at 6-foot-2. She had been sidetracked by a shoulder injury this year and may have been an unknown to Forest Lake. Not anymore.

Cook came off the bench to play her best game of the season in rallying Hibbing to a 25-21, 25-23, 25-19 victory before a boisterous 450 fans at Cloquet High School. Cook tied Chelsea Koth for the team lead with 11 kills and had six ace serves for Hibbing, which advances to play the Section 4 champion at 11 a.m. Thursday in the state quarterfinals at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

"We love having Alia back, and I think you can tell the crowd loves it, too,'' Nucech said. "She just brings excitement to the game. She's our spark plug.''

Nucech isn't big on numbers even if her career is defined by them. The winningest coach in Minnesota high school volleyball history leaves most of that to her assistants, but Thursday's win was one that she can easily remember: It's career victory No. 777 and sends the Bluejackets (25-5) to their 20th state appearance in the 33-year history of the tournament.

ADVERTISEMENT

"Everyone on the team wanted this so bad,'' Cook said. "This is amazing.''

Forest Lake (21-6), vying for its second state appearance and first since 2002, was deflated.

"We weren't intimidated because it was Hibbing,'' Forest Lake coach Sherri Alm said. "We had those first two games and should have put them away, but instead, we let them right back in it."

Kelsey Wirtanen finished with 21 set assists for Hibbing, while teammate Breanna Chamernick added 19 kills.

Senior Megan Becker paced Forest Lake with 12 kills.

Jon Nowacki is a former reporter for the Duluth News Tribune
What To Read Next
Get Local

ADVERTISEMENT