Prep volleyball: Hibbing's Lange is no stranger to Greenway

If Greenway's bid for a high school section volleyball title is thwarted by Hibbing, Raiders coach Rhaya Tomberlin-Anderson may be, inadvertently, partly to blame.

If Greenway's bid for a high school section volleyball title is thwarted by Hibbing, Raiders coach Rhaya Tomberlin-Anderson may be, inadvertently, partly to blame.

Tomberlin-Anderson has coached one of Hibbing's better players, Kate Lange, for the past several years during her summer camps.

Lange's mother, the former Julie Dulong, was a good friend of Rhaya Tomberlin's during their days at Greenway High School. Dulong, who was a swimmer while Tomberlin played volleyball, married Tom Lange and moved from Pengilly to Hibbing 17 years ago.

But after their daughter started playing volleyball -- and Tomberlin-Anderson was hired as Greenway's volleyball coach -- Julie Lange had an idea: Why not send her to a Greenway summer camp?

"Because Rhaya and I were friends, Kate was allowed to go to camps there," said Julie Lange, who is an athletic trainer with her husband in Hibbing. "Rhaya has been very good to Kate."


So Tomberlin-Anderson agreed to bring in herfirst Hibbing girl, even though the camp was forninth-graders and older and Lange was heading into seventh grade.

"I told her, 'Don't tell anybody, they'll just think you're a ninth-grader,' " Tomberlin-Anderson said. "She's come back ever since."

Fellow campers were unaware of the age difference, probably because Lange's ability wascomparable to the older girls.

"I thought she was in my grade, and then I found out she was only going to be a sophomore," Greenway senior Hannah Johnson said. "I was like, 'Wow, she's amazing.' "

Tomberlin-Anderson, a former All-State setter at Greenway, said she knew that young Lange would be a good setter. She jokingly called her Dulong -- a Coleraine-area name -- and kidded around with her about when she was coming to Greenway. All the while, she helped the teenager develop her game.

But now that Hibbing has moved down to Class AA after being a perennial state tournament contender in Class AAA, could that come back to haunt the Raiders?

Actually, Hibbing (18-8) has many more weapons than the sophomore Lange. From middle hitter Chelsea Koth to Paige Hardy on the outside, the top-seeded Bluejackets are well-equipped for the Section 7AA playoffs, which begin tonight with a home match against Duluth Marshall.

But the Raiders, and other potential opponents like Esko (20-4-3), Hermantown (20-6-1) and Virginia (18-8), have to be wary of Lange, who also can play hitter in Hibbing's 6-2 offensive scheme.


"When she's setting, and she's front row, she can put in a hit at any time," Johnson said. "You have to be prepared for the second hit."

If third-seeded Greenway (15-8-3) and Hibbing make it through their brackets, they would meet Nov. 3 for the section championship.

"I like playing against them," Lange said. "It would be a good thing if we played again for the championship."

Hibbing won 3-1 when the teams met on Sept. 13, a match during which Lange renewed acquaintances with several players.

"It felt like we were at camp," she said. "If someone [from Greenway] had a good hit, you wanted to congratulate them."

It's unlikely they'll be slapping hands, however, if they meet in the section final.

* The most difficult part of the Section 7AAA tournament might be over -- the seeding process.

The 12 teams were ranked and re-ranked, with the final order not being determined until Monday. The ultimate result may be that it will be difficult for a northern team to qualify for the state tournament. Grand Rapids (18-8) received a fourth seed and opens play Friday against the winner of tonight's Duluth Central-St. Francis match.


"It's a big mess," Grand Rapids coach Beth Joki said of the original seedings. "The first ranking they had had Andover first and Forest Lake second. Then they re-ranked and those flip-flopped."

Forest Lake ended up No. 1, followed by Andover and Chisago Lakes Area in a section more southern geographically after Hibbing, Hermantown and Cloquet dropped down a class.

* Ironically, if Carlton wins its Section 7A opening match tonight against Mesabi East, the Bulldogs will have to play on Esko's home court Friday. No, the Bulldogs won't have to play the rival Eskomos -- Esko is in Section 7AA -- that just happens to be the site for two section quarterfinal matches.

The Bulldogs (18-6-2) proved they are one of the 7A favorites, beating larger teams such as Esko, Hermantown and Greenway and going 8-0 against local Class A teams. Amber Bloom is one of the top hitters in the Northland, averaging 4.6 kills per game.

The other half of the section is loaded with Hill City (21-3), Deer River (17-8-2), Chisholm (17-5) and Littlefork-Big Falls (16-7) among the contenders.

RICK WEEGMAN covers prep volleyball for the News Tribune. He can be reached at (218) 723-5302, (800) 456-8181 or at

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