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Titans gaining strength in Region 7

Press Photo by Royal McGregor Dickinson Trinity senior Gretchen Weir, left, goes up for a kill against Hazen defenders Krista Slaubaugh, middle, and Ashton Carter on Sept. 24 at Knights of Columbus Activities Center.

The amount of quality volleyball teams in Region 7 is growing every week.

Yet, one team stands at the top. It is the Dickinson Trinity volleyball team.

The Titans have a perfect 5-0 record in Region 7 play after defeating Beulah -- in a rematch of last year's Region 7 championship game -- in four sets on Tuesday night.

"I feel like the competition is really close," Trinity head coach Rayma Braaten said. "It's kind of like it how it has been every year, whoever wants it the most is going to come out with the win at the end."

Trinity, which returned a majority of its players from last year's state tournament team, is continuing to gain experience and momentum.

One Titans player who continues to play more and more is sophomore outside hitter Kennedy Keator. Last year, Keator was used mainly as a serving specialist.

"I've learned a lot already from hitting, defense and playing all the way around," Keator said.

Keator said it's always a learning process to where every game and set might not work out in her favor. Yet, she's happy with how junior setter Katie Dockter isn't afraid to keep dishing her the ball.

"The Hazen game, I kind of struggled," Keator said with a smile. "It's good to know that she trusts me."

The Titans played in the two-day Dickinson High Invitational last weekend and return to tournament style of play at the two-day Des Lacs-Burlington Invitational beginning on Friday.

During the DHS tournament, Trinity finished with a 2-5 with wins over Hardin, Mont., and Watford City. The Titans also played and lost to Billings Senior, which won the gold tournament, during pool play.

"It seems like we play very well in pool play and then once we get to bracket play we are very inconsistent," Braaten said. "When it comes to tournaments, I haven't been as satisfied with them, but I think they also play more relaxed. I feel like every region game we have played pretty well."

Keator feels the team is progressing each time it steps onto the court.

"Every game we've been improving a lot," she said. "(On Tuesday night) it was probably one the best games that we played all season."

Heart River is looking for consistent play

When the Heart River volleyball team is clicking on all cylinders, it has the ability to defeat Class A teams.

When the Cougars are struggling, they have a tough time putting a match together.

During the DHS tournament, Heart River defeated Mandan 19-25, 25-19, 25-19 in the silver bracket. The Cougars turned around and nearly defeated Minot High, but lost 26-24, 19-25, 25-19.

"We did play well," Heart River head coach Hope Volesky said. "That's the thing with volleyball is that you play at the same level as your competitor. This weekend was some of our best playing of the season thus far. If our heads are in the game, we can compete with anybody."

After pushing Minot, the Cougars returned to the court at the tournament and lost to Region 7 opponent Hettinger-Scranton in straight sets, 25-18, 25-16.

Heart River is hoping to continue its consistent play after defeating Region 7 opponent Hebron-Glen Ullin 23-25, 25-15, 25-17, 25-7 on Tuesday. The Cougars were led by Desiree Johnson with eight kills and five blocks.

The Cougars host Mott-Regent, a Region 7 opponent, at 7 p.m. today.

"It seems like every game we've been improving, but we aren't to that point to where I know we can be and where we have to be at the end of the year," Volesky said.

New England gaining confidence after wake-up call

On Sept. 19, the New England volleyball team was swept by Richardton-Taylor.

Two weeks later, the Tigers finished as consolation champions in the gold bracket of the Dickinson tournament and picked up multiple wins over Region 7 teams.

"I feel like our team has definitely gotten better," New England head coach Taylor Brown said. "I think we came into this knowing that they would be good, but they just didn't really fully get how good they could be. After we lost to Richardton, I think that was a big wake-up call that they have to work hard to get where they want to go."

The Tigers are looking to make noise during tournament time and Brown knows any team can come away with a win.

"It's whatever team shows up will definitely be the team that walks away with it," she said. "It's also motivation for the girls to work harder."