The on-court chemistry between Cloquet senior setter Emerson Rock and sophomore middle hitter Ava Carlson proved to be the difference in Tuesday’s Lake Superior Conference matchup against Proctor. When the Lumberjacks absolutely needed a point, the duo delivered throughout the match in a 3-1 (25-22, 25-22, 22-25, 28-26) victory over the Rails.

Rock, who paced the team in set assists with 42, credits years of shared varsity experience with Carlson, which has led to a natural instinct for where the other is going to be on the court at all times.

“Ava and I have been working together for a few years now. We just know where we are (on the court). I know where to set her and I know I can count on her when it’s a tight game. She knows where to put the ball,” Rock said.

Cloquet head coach Heidi Anderson lauded the two for their commitment to studying the game.

“They’re just really smart players,” Anderson said. “Emerson and Ava really study the game a lot and see the floor well. So, they can find the open lanes and kind of pick apart another team’s defense...they do a good job of just taking control of the game and finding a way to score.”

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Carlson finished the match with 27 kills, which included a pair of crucial points down the stretch in the first two sets— helping to push Cloquet to a 2-0 lead in the match. Senior outside hitter Breea Rasmussen was also active in the opening two sets and finished with 12 kills overall.

Proctor managed to bounce back after dropping two tightly-contested sets as senior hitter Payton Rodberg gave the Lumberjacks fits in the third frame which went the way of the Rails in a 25-22 nail-biter. Anderson said the team knew what to expect from Rodberg, and did its best to contain her throughout the match.

“We know Proctor has a really good team and a good record coming in and we’ve played against Payton for a few years, so we kind of tried to put together a game plan against her and she still finds a way to get her kills,” Anderson said. “We just try to slow her down a little bit and adjust as best we can.”

Rodberg carried her strong play into the fourth set, but the effort fell short with the Lumberjacks edging the Rails in a back-and-forth 28-26 final. Anderson was impressed by her team’s composure late in the match which prevented a fifth set.

“We’ve had a lot of games this year where it’s close at the end, and it’s like you’re up with just a few points to play or you’re down a few points to play and they just stay even keeled,” Anderson said. “You didn’t see them get upset and give up, and I just thought they played really well together as a team.”

Cloquet (18-5) will return to its home court on Thursday when the team hosts Grand Rapids at 7 p.m. Proctor will host Moose Lake-Willow River in its next match on Thursday at 7 p.m.

Cloquet def. Proctor 25-22, 25-22, 22-25, 28-26 — C: Ava Carlson 27K; Breea Rasmussen 12K; Carly Johnson 4K; Emerson Rock 42SA; Quinn Danielson 16D. P: Payton Rodberg 25K, 15D; Gabby Jauhola 45SA, 10D; Maddy Walsh 11K, 20D; Ella Walker 10K, 4B; Hope Carlson 12D.