TGU topples Nedrose 3-0 in District 11 tourney

VELVA – Never underestimate the power of bribery in the form of pizza.

The Towner-Granville-Upham volleyball team needed some extra motivation after a lethargic start in a first round match against Nedrose High School on Thursday evening at the District 11 girls volleyball tournament in Velva.

TGU coach Julie Smesrud noticed this and decided to oblige to her player’s requests.

“We started slow, maybe just not playing our game, but then we turned around and said ‘wait a minute, we know how to play this game,'” Smesrud said. “They wanted me to bribe them with pizza. And I did, so I owe them pizza.”

The Titans got stronger as the match wore on and eventually swept Nedrose by scores of 25-20, 25-13 and 25-10. TGU also took care of the Cardinals in straight sets earlier in the season on Sept. 8.

The opening set was competitive with Nedrose nursing a slim two-point lead early on, but eventually gave way to the Titans. The score remained close and was last tied up at 15-15 before TGU pulled away with a 10-5 run to close out the first set with pizza on their minds.

Senior middle hitter Angie Anderson was an unstoppable force for TGU with 22 kills.

“I just told them, ‘guys you have to have fun and play your own game, you don’t have to play the same way the other side is playing,'” Smesrud said.

A 7-3 advantage to TGU in the second set collapsed, as the pesky Cardinals stormed back to tie the frame at 10-10. A positive sign from the newly formed program.

“Starting a new program is very difficult and we have overcome many challenges this year and last year,” Nedrose coach Raquel Maldonado said. “We just keep getting better and better. The girls went out and played their hearts out tonight.”

Miscues from Nedrose, with swings into the net and out of bounds, helped TGU pull away for good. The Titans closed out the second set on a 15-3 run to take the commanding two-set lead.

With senior setter Pru Bray behind the service line to start the third set, TGU rattled off six straight points before Maldonado was forced into calling a timeout.

Bray finished with 22 assists and six aces.

The timeout wasn’t enough to slow down the Titans. It took five points later, as Anderson sent an attack attempt sailing out of bounds, to get Nedrose on the board in the third set, 11-1.

The damage had already been done. TGU finished up the match with 25-10 victory in set three for the sweep.

TGU advances to face Velva/Sawyer in the semifinals tomorrow, while Nedrose dropped to the other side of the bracket and will take on Bottineau.

Alex Eisen covers Minot High School, Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.