A year away from the state tournament didn't seem to affect the Stanley volleyball team in its first-round match against No. 2-seeded Thompson.
The Blue Jays were composed from the start, while nerves appeared to rattle the Tommies in their first appearance at state since winning it in 2004.
Stanley (33-10) ran away with the first and third sets and came from behind in the second for a 25-10, 26-24, 25-11 sweep of Thompson on Thursday at the Minot State University Dome. The Blue Jays play third-seeded LaMoure at 6 tonight in a Class B state semifinal.
Stanley senior Angela Nielsen (13) goes up for a block against Thompson's Emily Overby during the Blue Jays' 3-0 win in the first round of the Class B state tournament Thursday at the Minot State University Dome. Also pictured is Stanley junior setter Brianna Holland (8).
"They played loose," Stanley coach Jessica Niemitalo said. "They played after everything. They didn't sit and wait. They took the ball at them and that's huge for us."
Senior middle blocker and Region 8 senior athlete of the year Chai Pappa led the Blue Jays with 19 kills and four blocks. Pappa didn't need to be dominant early as Thompson errors spotted Stanley a 10-2 lead in the first set. The Region 2-champion Tommies committed 12 miscues in the first game. Stanley's first nine points came on Thompson errors before Pappa recorded the team's first kill.
Thompson (37-5) regrouped in the second set, leading the majority of the way with kills from sophomore middle blocker Shaice Marx and senior middle blocker Shannon Galegher. The Tommies led by as many as five on three occasions, the last being a 23-18 advantage. A kill by Thompson senior outside hitter Averi Olson gave the Tommies their first of four set points.
Pappa took over from there, recording three kills and a block to take the set and a 2-0 match lead.
"That second set, coming back from as far down as we were, was a huge push for us and just a major confidence builder," Niemitalo said. "It probably deflated Thompson a little bit. I know it would have felt the same way if it had been reversed. It just takes the wind out of you when things like that happen."
The momentum carried over to the third set as Stanley jumped out to a 10-0 lead. The advantage ballooned to 21-6 soon after. Thompson made one final push with five unanswered points, but kills by senior middle blocker Angela Nielsen and senior outside hitter Sabrina Skarsgard set up match point.
"We definitely thrive off our energy," Pappa said. "We have sync with each other. We really came together during the season and we really showed up."
Fittingly, Thompson's championship hopes ended with an unforced error.
Galegher finished with a team-high 11 kills.
The Tommies play Grant County at noon today in a consolation match.
Mike Kraft covers high school athletics, the Minot State University men's club hockey team and the Minot Minotauros. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.