The Our Redeemer's Christian School volleyball team continued its run of straight-set victories Thursday.
The Knights held off two late-set rallies by Kenmare in the first and second games before cruising in the third en route to a District 12 sweep. It was ORCS' fourth consecutive sweep.
ORCS freshman middle hitter Makayla Gartner finished with a match-high nine kills and setters Karlee Zablotney and Morgan Olson set up the offense with 24 combined assists in the 25-23, 25-22, 25-12 victory. Junior outside hitter McKensie Popinga led the Knights (13-4-2 overall, 3-0 district) with 10 digs.
Our Redeemer’s Christian School freshman Morgan Olson goes up for a spike attempt against Kenmare senior McKenzie Chrest on Thursday at ORCS.
"We played together as a team and we were really loud and communicative tonight and that was really good," Olson said.
The Honkers (7-10-1, 0-2) and Knights traded points throughout the first half of the opening set before ORCS opened an 18-12 advantage. Kenmare crept back into the set with production from senior outside hitters McKenzie Chrest and Katie Nelson. An ace by Chrest brought the Honkers to within 23-22, but ORCS junior outside hitter Gabi Boeckel's second kill of the set helped put Kenmare away.
"Yesterday at practice we told the girls, 'They took (Bishop) Ryan to five sets, so we can't underestimate them by any means. You still have to come in here and play your game,' " ORCS coach Kara Nunziato said. "It was a really good match. Fortunately, Kenmare made a couple service errors at the right time and momentum swung our way."
The second set was more of the same as the teams battled to 11-11 before a block by ORCS junior middle hitter Megan Hogue gave the Knights a lead they wouldn't surrender. Kills by Boeckel, Gartner and Zablotney pushed ORCS' advantage to a game-high six points at 19-13. But, like the opening set, Kenmare inched its way back. This time it was freshman middle hitter Haley Kohler and Nelson leading the charge. The two combined for five kills late in the set and the Honkers got to within 21-20. But once again the Knights recovered in time to take the set.
"We let teams catch up to us," Nunziato said. "We take a mental break thinking we're comfortable and we get too comfortable with our lead and we get into a tight situation. Luckily these girls are mentally strong enough to put themselves back into it and push through to the end."
Said Boeckel: "That's something we have to work on and figure out, but if we can figure that out we should be good for the next couple of games."
There wasn't a mental lapse in the third set as the Knights led 17-9 and closed out the match by winning eight of the final 11 points. In the last four matches, ORCS' opponents have scored an average of 13 points in the third set.
"We pick it up a notch and we don't dwell on our mistakes," Olson said. "We just keep going and fight on and want to finish the game."
Kenmare's inexperience showed at times as communication breakdowns plagued the Honkers at inopportune moments.
"They haven't played a lot together on the floor and that just happens," Kenmare coach Tim Wallstrum said. "We showed our inexperience because some nights we play really well and other nights we don't play very well. Tonight wasn't one of our better nights."
ORCS plays in the Dickinson Invite beginning today at 2 p.m. against Hettinger. Kenmare hosts Des Lacs-Burlington at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Mike Kraft covers high school athletics, the Minot Minotauros and the Minot State University men's club hockey team. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.