Whenever the Our Redeemer's Christian School volleyball team dug itself a whole, the Knights managed to pull themselves out just in time.
Sometimes it was by their own hand, other times the Knights received help from District 12 foe Des Lacs-Burlington during the host team's straight-set victory over the Lakers on Tuesday.
DL-B committed nine service errors, many occurring with momentum on their side, allowing the Knights to fight back in the opening set and persevere through the second en route to a 25-22, 25-23, 25-15 victory. ORCS (11-5 overall, 2-0 district) trailed late in each of the first two sets.
Our Redeemer’s junior outside hitter McKensie Popinga (7) stretches for the ball as Gabi Boeckel (9) looks on and Des Lacs-Burlington’s Erica Moen defends during Tuesday’s match at ORCS.
"It just comes down to mental focus and momentum," ORCS coach Kara Nunziato said. "These girls, they know when it's time to get to work. They've done a really good job digging themselves out of holes and out of tight situations so far."
DL-B (4-6, 1-1) led throughout most of the opening set, leading by as many as three. The Lakers served up 16-13 looking for their largest lead of the match, but a service error - their fourth of the set - swung the momentum in ORCS' favor. The Knights fought back to tie the set at 19 and took the lead three points later. With a 23-21 advantage after two kills by junior outside hitter Gabi Boeckel, ORCS closed out the set with kills by classmate McKensie Popinga and freshman middle blocker Makayla Gartner.
"We played well," ORCS eighth-grade setter Karlee Zablotney said. "I thought we could have played a little better defense, but we did good overall."
Zablotney finished with a match-high 23 assists.
The Lakers limited their service errors to two in the second set, but the second came at the most inopportune time. DL-B rallied from a 19-13 deficit with eight consecutive points to grab its first lead of the set. But the unforced error brought the Knights to within one and they won five of the final seven points for a two-set lead. Gartner and Popinga had the final two kills once again. Gartner led the Knights with 14 kills.
"We had a few unforced errors that didn't go in our favor," DL-B coach Tarra Froseth said. "There's not a lot we can do about that. We just couldn't get the momentum back after we'd have one of those unforced errors."
The momentum of winning the first two sets carried over to the third as the Knights jumped out to a 7-2 lead. The Lakers fought back to tie it at 12, but the Knights closed the match winning 13 of the final 16 points.
"It's great the girls are coming out with such confidence," Nunziato said. "We need to eliminate the mental breaks that we had in the match. Sometimes we have a tendency to get comfortable. But overall, I'm very pleased to see another three-set win."
The Knights had 10 service errors, but eight either came early in a set or in the third when ORCS had a sizable lead.
"Serving is really important," ORCS junior middle blocker Megan Hogue said. "It's a determining factor in the game, so obviously serve receive and serves are very important."
Sophomore middle blocker Megan DeGree led the Lakers with seven kills.
The Knights host Kenmare and the Lakers play at Bishop Ryan on Thursday. Both matches start at 7 p.m.
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.