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Titans rely on younger players

Press Photo by Dustin Monke Dickinson Trinity sophomore setter Katie Dockter puts the volleyball in the air against Heart River on Nov. 5 during the Region 7 Tournament quarterfinals at the Killdeer High School gymnasium.

At first glance, the Dickinson Trinity volleyball roster looks young.

Don't be afraid to take a second look. They are young.

The team has seven juniors, three seniors, two freshmen and one sophomore as the Titans head to their first Class B state tournament since 2008.

"We've showed a lot and everyone is doing what we can do," Trinity junior hitter Jillian Stockert said. "There are a lot of young teams out there."

Trinity travels to the state tournament as the Region 7 champions to play Linton-HMB, the Region 3 champions, at 11 a.m. today at the Minot State Dome.

"We're all still excited," Trinity senior outside hitter Alyson Schieno said. "For me, it's still not processing yet. I'm really excited."

Schieno, who stands 5-foot-8, is a leader on and off the court. She had 64 kills during the Region 7 tournament and posted a match-high 25 kills as Trinity beat Beulah for the region championship. In her career, Schieno has 1,235 kills.

"My three seniors right now know their roles," Trinity head coach Rayma Braaten said. "Schieno has done amazing when we needed her to and she's a really good leader on the court. Ashley (Kerkman) and Ali (Kovash) have done really well in their serving game."

Katie Dockter, Trinity's lone sophomore, said having this amount of youth receive varsity playing time is only going to benefit the team in the future.

"It's definitely good because in the years to come we will really be stronger," she said. "I was on varsity last year, but I only played a few tournaments. Even that, just seeing what it was like in the fastest-pace game gets you ready for the years to come."

Braaten, Trinity's second-year head coach, thinks the program is in good shape and believes they are currently in a good spot. Returning next season are juniors Katelyn Grinsteinner, Molly Schweitzer, Allison Steffan, Britney Schneider, Katelyn Rummel and Gretchen Weir. The freshmen are Briana Soehren and Kennedy Keator.

"I think our program doesn't have anywhere to go but up," Braaten said.

With the team's amount of youth and varsity inexperience coming into the season, the Titans had tough start but eventually ended with a 21-16 record.

"We started super slow," Braaten said with smile. "We were losing games that we weren't supposed to be losing. I said at the beginning of the season, 'People should watch out for us.' I did see the potential and the girls picked it up just at the perfect time."

The progression hit its high point when Trinity reached the District 14 tournament in Beulah. Trinity went 5-1 in district and region play. Its only loss was to Beulah in the District 14 championship match.

"I think we've really come together as a team over the year," Dockter said. "This is really our JV team last year with the exception of Schieno. Everyone gets to play, which is great. Everyone contributes to the team, which is exciting."

Nonetheless, the Titans didn't let a 0-5 record against Beulah in the previous two seasons disrupt them from taking 3-2 win to capture the Region 7 title.

"We've progressed a lot," Schieno said. "It was a rollercoaster throughout the season, but when the time came to pull through as a team, we came out with the win. We proved to ourselves and to people that we could go all the way."

Schieno said having the underclassmen gain varsity experience is beneficial and even said the team making back-to-back state tournament appearances is in the realm of possibilities.

"That helps them out a lot," Schieno said. "They are going to be here next year and they proved to themselves that they can go to state. I believe that they can go to state next year too."