Region 7 title, spot in Class B state tourney up for grabs
“Any team on any given night can come away with a win.”
Needless to say, there’s plenty of parity as eight teams begin Region 7 Tournament play on Friday.
“In this region, we all have our games,” Beach head coach Shae Peplinski said. “It’s whoever shows up to play. I think every coach has said all season, because there have been a lot of surprises and upsets. It is anybody’s tournament and everybody’s season starts over on Friday.”
New England head coach Taylor Brown added: “You watch the matches throughout the season and it kind of wakes you up a little bit, because anyone could win this year. There is so much talent this year and it is really fun to see.”
Heart River, which is the No. 8 seed in the tournament, is very familiar with the parity. This season the Cougars have wins over multiple Class A schools — during the Dickinson High Invitational — and forced the top two teams in Region 7 to five sets.
Though Heart River wasn’t able to come away with wins over Dickinson Trinity, the No. 2 seed in the region, or the top seed Beach, Northrop said the team has all the confidence in the world.
“We can play with any team,” said Heart River senior Karli Northrop, who finished with 15 kills and 16 digs in a five-set loss against Beach on Tuesday. “We went to five sets with Trinity and we went five sets with Beach. Anybody can play anybody on any given night. It’s awesome to know the region title is up for grabs. We just have to take it one game at a time.”
All four games begin at 7 p.m. Friday as, No. 5 seed Richardton-Taylor hosts No. 12 seed Killdeer, No. 6 seed New England hosts No. 11 seed Hebron-Glen Ullin, No. 7 seed Hettinger-Scranton hosts No. 10 seed Mott-Regent and Heart River host No. 9 seed Bowman County.
Though there is parity in the region, the coaches are welcoming it every chance they get — because, in the long run, it’s going to make their team better.
“My girls have improved so much and it has been the talent elsewhere too,” Brown said. “We have to improve and we have to work hard or we aren’t going be one of those top teams. The girls know that and that’s always motivation to push them that little extra bit.”
Trinity head coach Rayma Braaten added: “I just want to see the best from my players in this tournament. It’s kind of the dream and the hope of every coach at the region tournament. You don’t have second chances, so you want to see your team play to the best of their abilities.”
The four teams which open the tournament with a bye are Beach, Trinity, No. 3 seed Beulah and No. 4 seed Hazen. Braaten said it’s going to be a battle until the end.
“I really like the competition factor of the tournament, because no team can take it easy,” Braaten said. “I enjoy that competition of competing for a title.”
Players to watch
Brown said voting for the top 15 players in the region was a struggle, because the talent is widespread. Each team has multiple players who affect the outcome of every game.
Beach’s 6-foot-2 junior middle blocker, Channa Clarin, has had double-digit blocks in multiple games this season. The Buccaneers also have Hailee Farstveet, Bailey Waldal, Chantel Fulton and Cid Stedman. Farstveet posted a game-high 21 kills on Tuesday against Heart River.
“We really need to come out strong and ready,” said Clarin, who had 17 kills and 14 blocks against Heart River on Tuesday. “We can’t dig ourselves into a whole. We kind of tend to do that, but we just have to come out ready.”
Trinity has Gretchen Weir, Katelyn Grinsteinner, Kennedy Keator, Katie Dockter and Allison Steffan. The Titans also have seniors Katelyn Rummel and Jillian Stockert in the backcourt.
Beulah, which finished runner-up in the region last year, returns a majority of its players. The Miners have a plethora of junior hitters including Jaime Murschel, Delaney Johansen and Nicole Schramm.
Yet, everything for the Miners comes together with the play of their senior setter Lakin Kessler.
“(Lakin) gives our hitters an opportunity to be successful,” Beulah head coach Kevin Peterson said. “Our ball control hasn’t been the greatest this year, but we are continuing to make progress. She doesn’t complain and does the best with what she can with every single ball we give her. The thing that often gets overlooked with Lakin is her defensive abilities. She’s got over 200 digs for us this year. She’s so focused and she’s enjoyed being part of our volleyball team and a true leader for us. I’m just glad she is on our team.”
Hazen has had its fair share of parity this season too. The Bison have won and lost five-set matches. Hazen defeated Beulah on Sept. 17 and lost to Trinity on Sept. 24.
The Bison are led by the quartet of sophomore Stephanie Ziegler and seniors Ashton Carter Sadie Bolton and Hannah Zimmerman. However, never discount junior Madison Leintz, who can command long runs on the serve line.
“We’ve actually played some of our toughest in the last two weeks,” Hazen head coach Linette Irwin said. “We had to play hard throughout the entire match. It really builds a little character in the girls on how to play those tough matches. We’ve had some tough moments too, so hopefully they learned something from those too.”
Richardton-Taylor has seniors Haley Butterfield and Samantha Steiner. The two can put down kills and serve up aces. Hannah Rummel, a senior setter, dishes out aces, while senior Brooklyn Miller commands the backcourt as the team’s libero.
New England is bolstered by junior outside hitter Taylor Hewson, who goes up swing every chance she gets whether it’s at the end or in the back row. Gabbi Hanson, a senior, is the team’s setter, while junior Madison Humleker digs up as many hits as she can in the libero position.
For Hettinger-Scranton, the team has 5-11 senior middle blocker Cassie Holt, senior outside Brooke Slater and junior setter Talyssa Kvanig.
Heart River has four seniors Northrop, outside hitter Nettie Splichal, middle blocker Desiree Johnson and libero Alex Poland. The Cougars also have juniors setter Jada Mattson, outside hitter Addison Olson and middle blocker Mikayla Raskin.
Bowman County has a host of seniors including Brittany Hansey, Morgan Woodley, Kaitlyn Dix, Macy Smyle and Sierra Irons. The Bulldogs ended their regular season with a sweep over the Nighthawks on Tuesday.
Mott-Regent only has two seniors on its roster — outside hitter Abby Honeyman and setter Alyssa Olin. The Wildfire has six juniors, three sophomores and one freshman.
Hebron-Glen Ullin is led by seniors outside hitter/middle blocker Sabrina Horst, setter Kari Gerving and libero Bethany Morman. The Bearcats also rely on sophomores Kendra Gerving, Michaela Gerving and Taya Bandle.
Killdeer has five seniors on its roster, which contributed every match. Brittney Berg is the team’s setter, while Meghan Voigt and Ashley Birkle are defensive specialists. Makaila Entze and Taylor Achter are both outside hitter. Jessica Starr is a junior outside hitter.
Though 12 teams are competing for one spot in the North Dakota Class B state volleyball tournament, Peterson said everything is shaping up to be a solid tournament.
“We’ve seen over the course of the year that teams have beat up on other teams,” he said. “Some teams have gotten hot and stayed hot. Other teams have made big strides and taking some sets from some of the higher seeds. That first round on Friday evening is going to be quite interesting.
“You don’t get a hiccup anymore. One loss at the wrong time means every players and coaches dream of making it to the state tournament are down the tube. It’s going to be a great tournament. You are just going to have to play great volleyball every single night.”