ORCS volleyball gearing up for postseason run
The Our Redeemer’s Christian School volleyball squad put a bow on yet another dominant regular season Oct. 12, taking its matchup with Lewis & Clark in four sets.
The victory marked the 12th in a row for the team to cap off a 28-6 campaign overall, an outstanding accomplishment for a Knights group pushing for its eighth consecutive state tournament berth, and 10th overall, next month.
Our Redeemer’s achieved its impressive regular-season success not by paying close attention to individual accolades and win streaks, though; rather, the Knights simply went about their business each day, taking the season one game at a time and playing the way they know how.
“I didn’t know that, that’s kind of cool,” senior middle hitter Calli Weekley said with a laugh when she learned of the streak. “We take every victory and pass it on and play our best for the next game. I don’t think we try to get any of those victories over our heads, because if we do, then that’s when we usually mess up and fail.”
Our Redeemer’s began its season with a clean sweep of its six matches in the Hazen Varsity Tournament held at Hazen High School Aug. 28, and would bounce back from a Sept. 2 five-set defeat to Kenmare with wins in six of its next nine matchups.
North Star would hand the Knights a rare three-set loss Sept. 14, but the team again was unfazed, rattling off its 12-game stretch to end the regular season. With its win against Lewis & Clark, Our Redeemer’s had clinched a perfect season against its District 12 and Region 6 opponents, notching respective 7-0 and 8-0 records.
Senior outside hitter Cheyenne Lang would finish the regular season with a team-high 295 kills, senior setter Eden Olson recorded a team-best 286 digs, and Weekley led the squad in blocks with 47. Maya Vibeto also notched an impressive 61 aces, just ahead of Lang’s 50.
“It’s about keeping practice competitive,” said head coach Kara Nunziato. “We make sure that anytime we have an opportunity to touch the ball and play as a group, that we’re pushing to improving our skills to the next level and taking each match one set at a time.”
Lang’s triumphant return to the Knights’ lineup gave the team back a starter it sorely missed throughout the 2020-21 season. Then a junior, she suffered a torn left ACL, an injury that put her on the sideline for good with then-senior Macy Lindquist, who also missed time due to injury.
Many hours of physical therapy later, Lang credits her teammates as a crucial support system throughout her lengthy recovery and eventual return to the court, just in time for the beginning of a senior season she would complete as the team’s leader in kills.
“The hardest part was probably getting over it mentally,” she recalled. “My teammates were really supportive all the way through, and they helped me want to come to practice and work hard again. They’ve made it really easy to put my full effort back into it, and it was really rewarding.”
The team now turns its attention to the upcoming District 12 tournament, a competition it won last year in four sets over the Des Lacs-Burlington Lakers. Nunziato has no plans to change the Knights’ routine now, citing the need to continue what has made the group so successful not just this year, but throughout the team’s history, as Our Redeemer’s inches closer to postseason play.
“We just need to keep doing what we’re doing, advancing our skills and being motivated to come to practice and work hard,” she said. “We have 14 practices before the district tournament, so we’re making sure that we come in mentally tough and not taking any days off.”
Of course, the Knights hope to achieve the first state championship in the history of the program next month. No matter how the season ends, though, Nunziato stressed how proud she is of what her team has already accomplished on the court, and more importantly, the young women her student-athletes have become off it.
“I really enjoy who each and every one of them are as people off the court,” she added. “I think that is something that is often not glorified as much as it should be, but they’re good people, and that’s what makes me the most proud.”