New England edges Bison in 5 sets
The Region 7 volleyball tournament appropriately began and ended with upsets.
Although Hazen had the higher seed, both teams were evenly matched in energy level and desire to move on to the next round.
“We knew it was going to be intense coming in here,” New England head coach Taylor Brown said. “I told a lot of people I bet it goes go to five because we’re both so evenly matched. I would say we both have some strong hitters and both have good passers in the back row and both of our setters are amazing setters.
“I knew it was going to be a close game, but I’m so proud of the girls for not giving up and fighting throughout the games, every single one.”
Brown told her players the key to defeating Hazen was to win set two. After Hazen took set one, the Bison went out on an early 4-1 run, before New England tied it 11-11. From there, the set was back and forth with Hazen leading until Gabbi Hanson hit a key ace tying it up again 16-16.
With New England up, Hazen battled back to tie it at 24-24 with each team exchanging points. But the Tigers were able to outlast the Bison and win the crucial game two.
“Coach told us if we get the second game, the match will be ours because if Hazen gets the second game, they’re going to win in four and that was huge for us to get the second game,” said Hanson, the Tigers’ senior setter.
Junior outside hitter Taylor Hewson added: “We knew for Hazen, the second game was the most important and we had to beat them and we got them and that brought them down. We just brought them down right away and I think they were scared.”
With the match on the line, New England came out in set five with an aggression and energy level higher than its previous four games. After the Tigers pulled away to a 14-9 lead, the Bison tried to retaliate and battle back, but it was too little too late.
Brown said she was most impressed with Hanson’s performance on the night with seven kills, 33 assists, three aces and 16 digs.
Hewson and senior middle hitter Hannah Nordby tied for the team-high with 15 kills. Hewson also had three assists, an ace, a block and 11 digs, while Nordby added 12 digs, an ace and two assists.
“I have to say that the girls worked really hard,” Hazen head coach Linette Irwin said. “This is indicative of our whole season really. We had a lot of these matches and more of them fell our way, so it’s kind of hard to swallow and would have been nice to keep going. I really have to say everyone did their best and I’m happy with that.”
Sophomore outside hitter Stephanie Ziegler and senior middle blocker Ashton Carter each had 11 kills, and double-digit digs with 21 and 10, respectively.
The Tigers face the No. 2 seed Dickinson Trinity at 8 p.m. today. Trinity is coming off an easy sweep over Hettinger-Scranton and is a big threat on its home court. Brown said her team has played the Titans before and knows what they’re capable of accomplishing, but also knows how to attack them.
“I think we’ll match up very good with them as well,” Brown said. “We have to work on a couple things as far as tip coverage and covering off the block against Trinity but we’ve seen them before and if my girls play well we’ll get it.”
Any team would want to be ranked a higher seed for its benefits. But after some tough losses in the regular season, New England accepts and embraces its place as an underdog and wants to prove to the region the potential they’ve had all year.
“We were really strong in the beginning of the season and then we started playing these harder teams and that’s why we got the 6 seed, but now I’m glad we lost to those teams,” Hanson said. “Now we can get them when it counts.”
NE 19 28 25 15 15 — 0
Hazen 25 26 17 25 10 — 3
Kills: NE, Hannah Nordby 15, Taylor Hewson 15, Jenna Ehlis 7, Gabbi Hanson 7, Linzee Volk 5. H, Stephanie Ziegler 11, Ashton Carter 11, Hannah Zimmerman 10, Autumn Johnson 7, Krista Slaubaugh 7.
Blocks: NE, Hewson 1, Volk 1, Hanson 1. H, Slaubaugh 1, Carter 1, Sadie Bolton 1, Johnson 1.
Aces: NE, Hanson 3. H, Carter 3, Bolton 3, Dakota Wood 2, Slaubaugh 1, Johnson 1.
Digs: NE, Autumn Wolf 18, Madison Humleker 17, Hanson 16, Nordby 12, Hewson 11. H, Ziegler 21, Wood 17, Slaubaugh 16, Carter 10, Bolton 8, Kayla Lindquist 7.
Assists: NE, Bolton 37. H, Dockter 21.