The Our Redeemer's Christian School volleyball team has not advanced to the state tournament since finishing as runner-up in 2004.
Ashley Koppinger, Billie Bangen and Emily VanLith, the only seniors on the roster, were in fourth grade the only time the Knights advanced to the state tournament. Eighth-grade setter Morgan Olson was in kindergarten.
Despite the team's youth, the Knights believe this could be the year.
ORCS senior middle blocker Emily VanLith attempts a spike on Glenburn sophomore setter Katie Dufner on Thursday as senior outside hitter Ashley Koppinger (14) looks on.
"I definitely believe that we have a good chance to reach state, but we're still going to have to work for it," Olson said.
Assistant coach Brittany Jacobsen was a sophomore for the Knights during the 2004 season. She said she sees similarities between the 2004 team and the 2012 team.
"Something I see that is similar is that want to get to state and that hunger to reach that level," Jacobsen said. "When I went to state we were hungry for it. We wanted to make it to that level. These girls have heard stories of it and want to get there."
A potential hurdle is district foe Kenmare, which hasn't lost to ORCS since 2007. The two teams played for the first time this season in the Hazen Invite on Aug. 25. Kenmare won in three games, but the result did not count toward either teams' district record.
They meet again on Oct. 9 at Kenmare, which most likely will determine the District 12 champion. ORCS and Kenmare are the only undefeated teams in the district.
"Kenmare is always tough," Jacobsen said. "Their coach always does a great job. They are always scrappy and defensive. Defensively, that's what we're going to need to step up. Mentally we need to be strong as well. We have the natural athletic talent, but mentally we need to be prepared."
Kenmare aside, the Knights (15-3-1 overall, 5-0-0 district) have been nearly unbeatable this season. ORCS has 11 straight-game victories and haven't played a five-game match this season. The Knights exacted their revenge on Bottineau, who eliminated ORCS in last year's Region 6 tournament, with a straight-game victory (25-20, 25-10, 25-21). Koppinger led the Knights with 15 kills, 10 digs and three blocks and Olson had a team-high 18 assists.
"If I were to compare the teams I would probably say this team has more athletic ability," Jacobsen said.
The Knights have dropped just 10 games in 19 matches this season and haven't lost a game in district play.
"We've really focused on being a defensive team and that's really coming along," Olson said.
ORCS' strong district play can be attributed to its difficult out-of-district schedule. The Knights opened the season by playing in the Hazen Invite, which included Kenmare and Ray. ORCS finished 4-1-1.
The Casselton Tournament also featured difficult competition in Central Cass and Oakes. The Knights finished second to Central Cass with a 5-1-1 record. The lone loss and tie came against the tournament host.
"You'd rather play these good teams in these tournaments and lose than go to a different tournament and play mediocre teams," Jacobsen said. "It's also nice not having to play the same team over and over again."
The Knights play at Des Lacs-Burlington at 7 p.m. tonight.