The Dickinson Trinity volleyball team has earned a pair of sweeps through its first two matches of the Region 7 Tournament.
Each contest featured dominating performances in the first two sets before squeaking by in the third.
However, juxtaposed to a lackadaisical performance against No. 8 seed New England where the top-seeded Titans appeared slow to the punch, Dickinson Trinity exhibited more ferocity on the court in a 25-11, 25-10, 25-19 regional semifinal victory over No. 5 seed Heart River on Tuesday, Nov. 6, from the Knights of Columbus Activities Center.
"It was completely black-and-white from last night," Dickinson Trinity head coach Breanna Sisson said. "You can tell that we came out with that drive and sense of urgency to just pick up every ball, get a touch on every ball and be aggressive on all aspects of the game."
Highlighted by a pair of kills from sophomore middle hitter Abbey Kubas and a pair of aces from senior setter Alexa Walby, the Titans raced out to a 7-1 lead early in the first frame.
Heart River narrowed the gap to 10-6 after junior middle hitter Caylee Wilke dropped in a kill from the right side of the net, but the Cougars could not get closer as Dickinson Trinity strung together two five-point surges.
Beginning with a kill and an ace from senior outside hitter Masy Kuntz, the Titans ripped off a 9-0 run, pushing their advantage to 15-2 midway through the second frame. Kuntz, who had a match-high 15 kills, believes her team played an improved brand of volleyball across the board.
"Passing, our passing tonight was awesome," Kuntz said. "The communication and our energy tonight compared to last night, we just had way more energy, more positive energy; we were just getting more excited about everything and I think that was the big change from last night to tonight."
Kubas and fellow sophomore middle Amaya Willer each added nine kills. Kuntz, Kubas and Willer were the recipients of brillant passes from senior setter Alexa Walby, who contributed with 37 assists.
Heart River had its best showing in third frame, opening an 8-5 lead following a pair of aces from sophomore middle hitter Afton Shypkoski. After the Titans tied it a 9-9 and 10-10, the Cougars again built a three-point advantage at 13-10 following a Dickinson Trinity net violation and two kills from Natasha Baranko.
"In that first and second set,, we were just kind of digging and hoping that we can get there. In that third set, we just geared our mindset towards making sure that we made a better play on every single ball," Cougars head coach Tessa Sian said. "We were going to get every single ball because they are a hard-hitting team, and we did that and we did that well. We were able to run a good offense off of those digs that we made."
Sophomore defensive specialist Campbell Clarys led the Cougars with nine digs, including a spectacular save near the Cougars bench later in the third, eventually resulting in a kill from senior setter McKenzie Buckman
With an ace from senior outside hitter Bre Tessier, Dickinson Trinity took its first lead of the third at 14-13, but Heart River would not go down easily, returning in front with kills from Shypkoski and Wilke.
The Titans went ahead for good with a 4-0 run capped by an attack from senior outside hitter Farrah Zeller.
"Just walking into the locker room after the game, you could see that they were happy with their efforts and they did all that they could for tonight," Sisson said. "They left it all on the court, so they were very happy with how they played."
Dickinson Trinity will play No. 3 Bowman County in the Region 7 Tournament championship on Thursday from the Knights of Columbus Activities Center. Winners of eight of their last nine matches, the Bulldogs will enter that contest as one hottest teams in the region.
"We just need to really play our game, that means communicating well, passing well, having consistent sets and of course getting on top of the ball and slamming it down," Kuntz said. "If we can do those things, we'll be good."
No. 1 Dickinson Trinity 3, No. 5 Heart River 0
HR 11 10 19 - 0
DT 25 25 25 - 3
Kills: HR, Natasha Baranko 5, Caylee Wilke 4, Laken Jacobson 4. DT, Kuntz 15, Amaya Willer 9, Abbey Kubas 9, Bre Tessier 6, Farrah Zeller 4, Alexa Walby 3.
Blocks: HR, None. DT, Kuntz 1, A. Kubas 1.
Aces: HR, Afton Shypkoski 2, McKenzie Buckman 1. DT, Walby 3, Tessier 3, Kuntz 2, Ali Daniel 1, Asia Willer 1.
Digs: HR, Campbell Clarys 9, Jacobson 6, Shypkoski 6. DT, Zeller 15, Daniel 10, Tessier 8, Kuntz 7, As. Willer 5, Walby 4, A. Kubas 2, Am. Willer 1.
Assists: HR, Buckman 12, Wilke 2. DT, Walby 37, Daniel 2, Kuntz 2, A. Kubas 2.
Records: HR, 23-12. DT 36-5.