It didn't matter what combination of players were on the court for the Our Redeemer's Christian School volleyball team Thursday. Everything seemed to work.
All 14 players on the roster saw playing time and 10 recorded points as the Knights remained undefeated in District 12 play with a sweep of Surrey. ORCS can win the regular season district title Tuesday when the Knights travel to play Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood at 7 p.m. The Mavericks - also undefeated in the district - defeated Bishop Ryan in four sets Thursday.
ORCS junior outside hitter Gabi Boeckel recorded a match-high eight aces and freshman middle blocker Makayla Gartner led the way with 12 kills. The Knights (27-8 overall, 6-0 district) shook off a slow start in the opening set and dominated the final two games for the 25-21, 25-9, 25-6 victory.
Our Redeemer’s Christian School junior
McKensie Popinga tips the ball over the net as Surrey’s BreAnne Volk (6) and Skylar Bertsch defend at the net Thursday at ORCS.
"I think they got a little frazzled in game one," ORCS coach Kara Nunziato said. "Surrey came out and served really aggressively. The girls realized that's not how they wanted to continue to play and they came into the second game ready to go."
Surrey (3-16, 0-6) gave the Knights all they could handle in the first set, matching ORCS point for point. The opening set featured 10 ties and three lead changes before the Knights took control with the game tied at 15. ORCS tallied five unanswered points - its longest run of the set - with back-to-back aces by eighth-grade setter Karlee Zablotney between kills by Gartner and freshman Morgan Olson. A block by junior Megan Hogue closed out the set.
"I was really impressed with them," Surrey coach Carlina Smith said of her team. "They were working as a team. I'm very proud of them. This was the first game we've been real close. I think we're going to go into our next game with more confidence."
It was all ORCS from there as the Knights opened the second set with 13 unanswered points. Boeckel recorded five aces during that stretch and Gartner and junior McKensie Popinga combined for five kills. The Mustangs won their first point of the set on a net violation by ORCS.
"It was fun just getting out there and playing our hardest," Boeckel said. "I know the first game wasn't that great, but we came back in the other two and it was great."
The early lead gave Nunziato a chance to give bench players some quality minutes. Eighth-grade outside hitter Ryleigh Popinga recorded consecutive kills late in the second set and sophomore setter Kendra Cruff tallied two aces in the third game. Freshmen Abbey Koppinger and Calissa Ree also recorded kills.
"Each of these girls have worked so hard," Nunziato said, "whether they're the starters on the court or the girls on the bench. Every day each of these girls come in, not to make themselves better, but to make each other better. It's special to make sure they all have a little bit of experience and time out on the court."
The third set mirrored the second with the Knights jumping out to a 9-0 lead. ORCS added five aces in the game and finished with 17 for the match. Seven different players recorded at least one ace.
Surrey senior outside hitter Kristine Stenvold finished with a team-high six kills.
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.