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Coaches report: Knights volleyball HC Kara Nunziato

Robert Brewer/MDN Our Redeemer's Christian School junior Calli Weekley (13) makes a play at the net in a District 12 tournament contest at home against South Prairie on Thursday, Oct. 29. Weekley and the rest of the Knights are scheduled to take on undefeated Linton today in the opening round of the Class B State Tournament at the Fargodome.

Our Redeemer’s Christian School will appear in its ninth state tournament when they take on Linton/HMB on Thursday afternoon at the Fargodome. It will also marck Our Redeemer’s seventh consecutive trip to state.

Meanwhile, the Minot Daily News asked eighth-year Knights head volleyball coach Kara Nunziato about her expectations heading into state, and what her club needs to do to pull out a victory over top-seeded Linton in their opening round showdown. Linton, the Region 3 champion, boasts a 22-0 season record heading into the game. Here is what Nunziato had to say via email.

MDN: Do you have any specific team goals heading into the tournament?

Nunziato: Our goal has always been to make it back to the tournament. Right now, our goal is to play consistently and take care of the ball on our side of the court. We were fortunate to have played many of the teams who are at the state tournament this season. This will be helpful as we prepared our week of practice and play this weekend.

MDN: Winning 11 of your last 12 matches, including district and regional titles, what has been the key to your late season hot streak?

Nunziato: This team demonstrates mental toughness. This is an aspect of the game that has developed the most over the course of the season. From a technical standpoint, our blocking and back-row defense has allowed our offense to shine. Eden Olson, our setter, has also been the consistent glue between our defense and offense.

Additionally, the team’s consistency and trust in each other has allowed them to play through uncomfortable moments. This was so evident in the fourth set of the regional championship match when the Knights were able to overcome a 10-point deficit at the beginning of the set.

MDN: Speaking of that regional title game against Des Lacs-Burlington, what allowed your team to rally back in the fourth set and go on to win?

Nunziato: We were mentally prepared to play a challenging match . Prior to the match we studied their hitting tendencies, but knew the match would be different than the district championship as Emily Degree of DLB was back in the mix.

In that fourth set, we were out of time outs at 11-1. In the remaining time-out, I didn’t say anything magical or novel. Set four was decided by a group of athletes who decided to refuse to lose. They literally flipped the switch and proved to be unfazed by the intimidating score.

MDN: With K-12 winter sports being temporarily suspended due to the coronavirus, what is your level of concern as you travel to Fargo for the state tournament?

Nunziato: I am not concerned about traveling. The NDHSAA has been diligent in planning the safest possible environment. Personally, I feel the risk is less than playing in other facilities due to the Fargodome’s size and number of entrances and exits.

MDN: What do you know about your next opponent Linton, and what makes them such a formidable foe?

Nunziato: Linton is a very fundamentally sound volleyball team. Their defensive abilities are among the best in the state. Additionally, they have several offensive options who can put away the ball effectively at any given time.

MDN: What does your club have to do to break Linton’s undefeated streak?

Nunziato: The team has to come in focused and ready for a tough battle of a match. We are the unrated team playing against the number one seed. As a result, we have nothing to lose. Our goal is to play consistently and leave it all on the floor.

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