The co-MVPs of the seventh annual Big Dog All-Star Volleyball Match were junior Claire Vekich of Greenway High School, above left, and senior Hailee Orhn of Grand Rapids High School.

VIRGINIA — “If you want some, you better bring some.”

That was the slogan for the Maroon Team – which is made up of high school volleyball players from the Iron Range – in the seventh annual Big Dog All Star Volleyball Match which was conducted Sunday at Mesabi Range College in Virginia.

And, it appears that the Gopher Gold (Duluth Area team) didn’t adhere to that slogan as the team of Iron Rangers came away with a 3-0, 25-22, 25-17, 25-15 victory. With the win, the Iron Range Team will again play host to the match next year.

As Maroon coach Brian Karich said about the match, “The bottom line is that we got some. All our players made contributions in the match.”

Two local players were named the co-MVPs of the match. They were junior Claire Vekich of Greenway and senior Hailee Orhn of Grand Rapids. Vekich led the Maroon Team in kills while Orhn was lights out defensively as the Maroon Team’s libero.

“Hailee was lights out with passing and floor defense,” said Karich. “The libero is such an important part of the game and Hailee has all the aspects of a good libero. She’s a great passer, she reads the hitter well and when she executed our spread offense well.

“And, Claire also had a great match and led us in kills.”

One big key in the win, according to Karich, was the right-side block of Chisholm’s Abby Thompson and Cherry’s Kaelyn Kudis which shut down the left side attack of the Duluth Area Team. In addition, he said the floor defense led by Orhn of Grand Rapids was outstanding in the match.

“You can’t stop anybody’s attack without a good floor defense,” Karich explained. “The floor defense is set up by our blocking game so we were able to channel their hitters to our floor defense because they couldn’t hit over the block and they could only go around the block. When they hit around the block, they hit right into our floor defense. And that’s where we excelled, with our floor defense.”

Karich said the event drew between 200 and 250 spectators which he said is the most that have turned out for the event in its history.

“Even with the weather conditions, we had more people attend than we had in previous years,” said Karich. “I think the match is catching on more now because this is the second year where it’s been the Iron Range Area versus the Duluth Area and with that it is more of a competitive nature for everybody. The Range Area certainly wants to beat the Duluth Area and the Duluth Area certainly wants to do the same against the Iron Range Area.

“That is rivalry pride.”

Schools representing the Minnesota Maroon team included Grand Rapids with Hailee Orhn and Braya LaPlant, Greenway with Mikhara Anderson and Claire Vekich, Brielle Kallberg, Ely, Kaelyn Kudis and Lauren Staples, both of Cherry, Abby Thompson, Chisholm, and Lexiss Trygg, Virginia.

Karich thanks all spectators, parents of players and Mesabi Range College for their assistance in making the event a success.

Next year’s match will be conducted at Mesabi Range College and is set for Nov. 15, 2020.


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