After the Our Redeemer's Christian School volleyball team watched rival Kenmare fall to Bottineau in the Region 6 tournament semifinals, the Knights rose to take the crown.
The Knights defeated Bottineau in straight sets (25-17, 25-13, 25-15) Thursday at the Minot Municipal Auditorium, giving ORCS its first region championship since 2004.
Senior middle hitter Emily VanLith sealed the title with her match-high sixth ace and ORCS fans stormed the court to celebrate alongside the team.
Mike Kraft/MDN • Our Redeemer’s Christian School senior Ashley Koppinger, right, holds the Region 6 championship trophy alongside seniors Emily VanLith, center, and Billie Bangen after the Knights defeated Bottineau on Thursday at the Minot Municipal Auditorium.
"I usually think too much about my serves and coach (Sherry) Carlson told me not to let it get in my head," VanLith said.
ORCS wasted little time setting the tone, taking a 10-4 lead in game one that forced Bottineau coach Steve Dunrud to use an early timeout. It worked for a moment as the Stars tied the opening set at 11, but the Knights reclaimed momentum with a 9-3 run and cruised to a first-game victory.
"We came in confident and aggressive and we weren't willing to lose," senior outside hitter Billie Bangen said. "We developed that hunger for this game."
The Knights had trouble with their serve in the early stages of the match, committing nine service errors in the first two sets. Despite the miscues, ORCS finished with 15 aces. VanLith had five of the team's six aces in the third set.
"We were just so determined and that was the thing that was so great," Carlson said. "When you come in with that kind of determination, you're going to have a good result and even when they faltered a little bit they recovered and got back on track. We really wanted to control the match and I feel like the girls did that."
Bottineau never led in the match and fell behind early in each set with a series of passing errors and communication breakdowns. With their backs against the wall after dropping the first two sets, the Stars fell behind 11-0 in the third game. A series of kills by sophomore middle hitter Stephanie Brenden and junior outside hitter Courtney Gallagher helped Bottineau close to within 19-13, but the early hole proved too big to dig out of.
"We didn't pass at all and we gave them a whole lot of opportunities," Dunrud said. "They're too good to give that many opportunities. We knew we would have to play as well as we did the other night and we didn't. (ORCS) had a lot to do with it. They served the heck out of the ball."
ORCS senior outside hitter Ashley Koppinger led the Knights with 16 kills.
"It feels so good," Koppinger said. "We worked so hard this year and to know that it paid off feels really good."
Koppinger was named Region 6 senior athlete of the year and was also named to the all-region team. VanLith also earned all-region honors. Carlson was named Region 6 coach of the year.
"It's really just an honor and for these girls as well," Carlson said. "All the glory goes to God."
With the victory, ORCS becomes the first Region 6 team other than Kenmare since 2004 to advance to the state tournament. The Honkers defeated Velva in straight sets in the third-place match.
The Knights play Region 4 champion Langdon at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Minot State University Dome.