Considered by many Class B volleyball coaches to be a preview of the state tournament, the Laker Invitational in Burlington lived up to its reputation last weekend.
District 7 representative Midkota defeated Our Redeemer's Christian School in two games to claim the tournament title after being left off the invitation list the past few years. The Mustangs denied ORCS its first Laker Invitational title. Instead, the Knights settled for their second runner-up finish at the event. Midkota dropped just one game in pool play before steamrolling through the championship bracket en route to the title. The Mustangs finished third at state last year.
"We still have work to do to get a little bit better, but it really does help our confidence big time," Midkota coach Mike Timm said.
Bishop Ryan was the only team to win a game against Midkota and it came in the first match of the tournament. Grouped together in Pool B, the Lions won the opening game 26-24 before the Mustangs took the second game 25-18 and won on point differential.
The Lions proved to be one surprising team, advancing out of a pool that featured Park River, Hazen and Stanley. Bishop Ryan split against Stanley - last year's state runner-up - before sweeping Park River and Hazen the following day. It was the first time in over eight years that the Lions advanced to the championship bracket. The Blue Jays settled for the consolation bracket.
"It was interesting the mixture of teams at this tournament - teams that are physically intimidating and teams that win by controlling the ball," Ryan coach Patty Luetzen said. "On days where we have both ball control and offense working well, we keep becoming a big surprise to ourselves."
With district tournaments in less than two weeks, the Laker Invitational served as a litmus test for a lot of teams. Langdon, ORCS, Ryan, Midkota, Thompson, Ray and Kenmare played well. Park River, Stanley, Central Cass and Beulah would have welcomed better results.
Des Lacs-Burlington finally figures out Velva
The Des Lacs-Burlington football team held Velva's offense to six points in a 12-6 victory on Saturday to earn its first win over the Aggies since 1994.
The Lakers scored all 12 points in the first quarter and the DL-B defense kept Velva off the scoreboard in the second half to throw a wrench in the playoff picture.
"It's huge," DL-B coach James Johnson said. "The kids were looking forward to the game. We played hard and our defense stepped it up. They were assignment-sharp the whole game. They played with enthusiasm."
Defense and special teams pushed the Lakers past Velva as the offense generated just 106 yards. Senior running back Andrew Flick took the opening kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown and sophomore linebacker Eric Knutson intercepted a pass by Velva junior quarterback Drew Effertz and returned it 72 yards for a score.
The victory moves the Lakers into a three-way tie with Velva and Lewis & Clark-Our Redeemer's for the final playoff spot in Class A Region 3. DL-B cannot finish higher than fourth as both Watford City and Williams County hold a one-game lead as well as the head-to-head tiebreaker.
"It's an exciting time if you get into the playoffs," Johnson said. "Everybody's 0-0 again."
Of the three teams fighting for that final playoff spot in the region, only DL-B controls its own destiny. L&C-ORCS needs to beat the Lakers and have Velva lose at Garrison-Max (1-7, 1-5) on Friday. If both the Bombers and Aggies win their respective games, Velva would advance to the playoffs on a head-to-head tiebreak with L&C-ORCS. Velva has won its last six games against Garrison-Max by a combined score of 319-6.
L&C-ORCS is 1-2 against DL-B since moving from 9-man to Class A in 2009. The Lakers defeated the Bombers 24-19 last season.
Pretty in pink
It's October. The temperature is dropping, the leaves are changing and the Christmas decorations are on display at Target. October is a special month and not just because of Halloween, Columbus Day or Plush Animal Lover's Day. It's Breast Cancer Awareness Month and schools around the state are doing their part to raise money.
Everyone knows someone who has been affected by cancer, whether it's a family member, close friend or a friend of a friend. The pink ribbon -and the color pink itself - is an icon for the awareness push. It was on display during last weekend's Laker Invitational. Teams from across the state showed their support by wearing pink socks, wrist bands, knee pads, shoelaces and hair clips.
Several volleyball teams have hosted a "Dig Pink" game this season, wearing pink uniforms to be auctioned off after the match. The proceeds from the auction, along with the money collected from selling breast cancer awareness apparel go toward cancer research.