The Our Redeemer's Christian School volleyball team was forced to change its offensive game plan after junior setter Brooke Knutson could no longer battle through a turf toe injury that plagued her for months.
The instructions were simple: feed go-to seniors Ashley Koppinger and Emily VanLith even more than usual. The plan worked, as the duo combined for 54 kills in a five-set victory (25-21, 24-26, 22-25, 25-19, 15-11) over Ray in a state consolation match Friday at the Minot State University Dome.
ORCS seventh-grade setter Karlee Zablotney replaced Knutson in the lineup alongside eighth-grade setter Morgan Olson. Olson finished with 32 assists and Zablotney added 22.
Our Redeemer’s Christian School eighth-grader Morgan Olson sets the ball during her team’s five-set win over Ray on Friday at the Minot State University Dome.
"All I told her to do was keep the ball high and she did," ORCS coach Sherry Carlson said. "It gave the girls the opportunity to swing, which was nice because then we could control the offense."
The Knights tallied 58 assists, five less than the state-tournament record set by Flasher in the preceding match.
As was the case throughout the match, Koppinger and VanLith led ORCS' offense in the first set. With the score tied at 17, the Knights got four kills from VanLith and an ace from Koppinger to win the opening set.
"We want to walk out these doors knowing we finished strong," Carlson said. "That's our goal no matter where we are (in the tournament)."
The Jays fought back and won the next two sets. Ray rallied in the third set after trailing 22-20 by winning the final five points of the game.
"We came out ready to play and (ORCS) played solid," Ray coach Michelle Dolan said. "We had a heck of a match against them as usual."
Ray appeared poised to win the match in four sets after jumping out to an early 7-2 lead in the fourth game. But three kills by VanLith, two by Koppinger and an Olson ace pulled the Knights to within one. Koppinger's match-high fifth ace tied the fourth set at 14. After the Jays took the next three points, the Knights finished the set on an 11-2 run.
"We can't do it without our team, but this is our last two games with this team," VanLith said. "We just want to go out strong and give it our all and have fun."
In the condensed fifth set, Koppinger and VanLith accounted for 13 of the match's final 15 points. Koppinger had six kills and a block while VanLith contributed an ace and five kills.
"When you get beat like (we did against Langdon), you feel down, but when you come in and win and play your best, it feels really good," Koppinger said.
The loss of Knutson didn't appear to affect the Knights physically, but her presence on the court was missed.
"She is a very big part of our team," VanLith said. "We played with her for so many years so it's sad that we won't be able to finish our last two games with her. But we know it's best for her."
Knutson will not be in the lineup when the Knights close out their season today against Flasher at 2 p.m. in the fifth-place match. Ray plays Dickinson Trinity at noon in the seventh-place match.
Flasher 3, Dickinson Trinity 2
Flasher held off a late charge from Dickinson Trinity to advance to the Class B consolation championship.
The Bulldogs led early in the fifth game, but Trinity charged back before Flasher closed out the 26-28, 25-18, 25-20, 19-25, 16-14 win.
Flasher set a state-tournament record with 63 assists, led by senior setter McKenna Schmidt's 48. Micaela Meyer finished with 33 kills, three short of the tournament record.
The Titans were led by Alyson Schieno (22 kills, 14 digs), Katelyn Grinsteinner (16 digs, 14 kills) and Katelyn Dockter (43 assists).
Flasher plays Our Redeemer's Christian School in the fifth-place match today at noon, while Trinity and Ray play in the seventh-place match at 10 a.m.
Jamestown 3, Bismarck High 0
After winning a marathon 32-30 first set, Jamestown closed out Bismarck High 25-8 and 25-18 Friday to advance to the fifth-place match of the Class A state tournament.
Senior Siri Jystad led the Blue Jays with 11 kills and Addie Eamon and Rebekah Hilgemann chipped in six apiece.
Jamestown setters Josie Hegerle and Rebekah Horwell combined for 31 assists, and junior libero McKayla Orr tallied 15 digs.
McKenzie Kiefer led a 59-dig defensive effort for the Demons, and Ashlee Hilzendeger posted a team-high 10 kills.
Jamestown plays Fargo Shanley in the consolation championship today at noon, and Bismarck takes on Fargo Davies in the seventh-place match at 10 a.m.
Fargo Shanley 3, Fargo Davies 0
Fargo Shanley made quick work of Fargo Davies on Friday afternoon, sweeping its cross-town foe 25-16, 25-19, 25-19 in a Class A consolation match.
Alivia Fraase tallied 19 kills, 10 digs and a pair of blocks for for Shanley, which faces Jamestown today at noon in the consolation title round. Davies, which dropped to 0-2 in tournament play, will face Bismarck High at 10 a.m. to determine seventh place.
Amy Freeberg had 37 assists to help pace the Deacons. The Eagles were led by Kali Erickson's nine blocks, nine digs and two aces.