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Cougars out-dig Miners, advance to semifinal

The quarterfinal between No. 4 Beulah and No. 5 Heart River was not won by powerful hits, or big blocks. Instead, it was a match of strategic tips and relentless defense.

Heart River senior middle Natasha Baranko goes up for a kill in a Region 7 quarterfinal game against Beulah, on Monday, Nov. 5, at the Knights of Columbus Activities Center. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)
Heart River senior middle Natasha Baranko goes up for a kill in a Region 7 quarterfinal game against Beulah, on Monday, Nov. 5, at the Knights of Columbus Activities Center. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)

The quarterfinal between No. 4 Beulah and No. 5 Heart River was not won by powerful hits, or big blocks. Instead, it was a match of strategic tips and relentless defense.

It was the tenacity and athleticism of the players in the back row that gave the Cougars the 3-2 victory, propelling them to the semifinal game against No. 1 Dickinson Trinity at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

"We have a lot of really quick girls in the back row and we've worked a lot on hustle plays. We stress hustle plays more than just digging hard balls," Heart River head coach Tessa Sian said. "We had really good blocks up. They have a couple good swings on their side, so we put up a couple really good blocks so our girls knew where to stand in the back row. They just did a really good job of what they were supposed to do."

After dropping the first set 25-16, the Cougars won back-to-back frames by scores of 25-21 and 25-18 to take a 2-1 lead.

There were more than a handful of occasions that the Miners should have had a point after a tip of poor serve receive sent the ball soaring out of bounds, but the determination of the Cougars defense and a big swing would put the ball back in play and over the net.

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Junior outside hitter Afton Shypkoski led Heart River in digs with 20, as well as kills, with 16. She also led all players with four aces.

Sophomore defensive specialist Campbell Clarys put up 17 assists, while junior outside hitter Laken Jacobson contributed 13.

"Our setter was doing a really good job," Shypkoski said. "She was getting my sets right to me. On defense, we were just working together, talking, being patient with each other too helped."

Senior setter McKenzie Buckman contributed a match-high 32 assists.

With their season on the line, the Miners battled in the fourth set. The teams went point-for-point until Beulah rattled off three straight to take a 10-7 lead.

"We were more aggressive," Beulah head coach Brian Filibeck said. "It was just our mentality. We were determined to win. In set two and three we were a little nervous and playing not to lose instead of playing to win. I think that was the difference."

A series of mistakes bumped the advantage to 13-8, at which point Sian called timeout. Shortly after the huddle, the Cougars rallied, firing off a 10-2 run to close the gap to 22-21.

A kill from Miners senior middle Faith Schnabel brought it to match point, 24-22, but Heart River scored the next three to go up 25-24. A block from Schnabel tied it again before Beulah sealed the win, 27-25.

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The Cougars carried their late-fourth momentum into the final frame. A kill from Shypkoski put the Cougars up 7-6, a lead they wouldn't relinquish the rest of the way. Two aces from Jocelyn Baranko, a Shypkoski kill, and an attack error gave Heart River a 11-6 advantage.

A tip from sophomore middle Olivia Martens helped the Miners put up two more points, but the Cougars sealed a trip to the semifinals with a 15-9 victory.

"I think we were just keeping our ball control under control," Shypkoski said. "We were just letting it flow, we weren't getting too nervous about anything."

Heart River 3, Beulah 2

HR 16 25 25 25 15 - 3

B 25 21 18 25 9 - 2

Kills: HR, Afton Shypkoski 16, Laken Jacobson 12, Emily Hlebechuk 8. B, Phoebe Garman 18, Faith Schnabel 8, Cassidy Nelson 6, Olivia Martens 6, Kailey Zahn 3, Camille Klindworth 2.

Blocks: HR, Natasha Baranko 2, McKenzie Buckman 1, Hlebechuk 1. B, Schnabel 3, Nelson 2, Klindworth 1, Martens 1, Garman 1.

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Aces: HR, Shypkoski 4, Baranko 2. B, Zahn 2, Martens 1, Trinity Doe 1.

Digs: HR, Afton Shypkoski 20, Campbell Clarys 17, Jacobson 13. B, Whitney Hatzenbuhler 27, Garman 13, Camille Klindworth 11.

Assists: HR, Buckman 32, Caylee Wilke 4. B, Klindworth 29, Zahn 1.

Records: HR, 22-11-2. B, 14-21-2.

Related Topics: BEULAH MINERSHEART RIVER COUGARS
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