Dickinson High senior setter Lauren Jorda thought her season was over.
Jorda, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer on Sept. 6, played what was thought to be her final match on Sept. 18 at home against Bismarck Century.
However, 30 minutes prior to the opening serve against Turtle Mountain on Thursday, Oct. 4, Jorda was back in uniform, racing onto the floor with her teammates by her side for pre-game warmups.
While her battle continues on, on her first night back, Jorda seemed like she never left, tallying a match-high 23 assists as the Midgets battled to a 3-0 sweep over Turtle Mountain 25-19, 25-17, 25-17 from the Dickinson High Gym.
"It's always tricky coming back after being out for a while, but with the team being together for so long, it was easy to get back into rhythm," Jorda said.
Prior to the match, Turtle Mountain presented Jorda with a $200 donation. Competitors on the court, the Bravettes embraced Jorda at midcourt, showing love and compassion for a member of the volleyball community.
"I said before, it's unreal the support I've gotten," Jorda said. "From a competitor, it just really reinforces that this is just game and there's so much more than just winning and losing."
During the opening set, an ace from Dickinson junior middle hitter Audrey Rodakowski gave the Midgets a 16-9 lead. Turtle Mountain responded, going on a 5-0 surge capped by three consecutive aces from sophomore middle hitter Kayte Keplin, forcing Midgets head coach Jay Schobinger to call a timeout.
"We got to start controlling the ball a little bit better," Schobinger said. "I think we got a little bit lazy with our footwork. And that was the main focus, 'you guys have to take care of the ball.'"
After the timeout, Dickinson scored five of the next seven points, maintaining that gap before a serve from Bravettes sophomore Sunni Paristen fell just wide, giving the Midgets the set.
The second frame was a back-and-forth affair that featured nine ties. After a Dickinson hitting error, the score was knotted at 15-15 before Jorda delivered an attack with a surprise two-handed shot on the second hit. The point sparked a 5-0 run, giving the Midgets a cushion they would not relinquish.
Jorda was primarily setting up teammates on the right side of the net. Junior outside hitter Peyton Selle and Taylor Nelson often took advantage, as the duo combined for 18 kills (Selle 10, Nelson 8).
"It's not so much about hitting it as hard as I can as much as it's about hitting it in the right spots where the players aren't and going around the blocks," Selle said of her approach. "Turtle Mountain had single blockers and usually teams have double blockers, so it was a little bit easier to go around that."
With the third frame tied at 2-2, sophomore outside hitter Avery Lafountain and senior setter Montana Martell each had diving, point-saving digs, but it was all for naught as Selle found a small hole in the Bravettes back line. After a number of furious charges, Turtle Mountain was out of gas.
"Martell, my senior who has been playing libero all season long, had to step in and play a setter. She stepped into the role and man, have I missed her being my leader," Bravettes head coach Cindy Keplin said. "She did a great job leading and I felt like she helped control the pace of the game. A few errors with communication and our biggest problem was serving, a lot of those mental mistakes on our part is what tipped the scales."
Dickinson junior libero Kendryn Bullinger delivered the final two points with a pair of aces. She led the team with four aces and 13 digs on the night.
"At times, I think we did fairly well," Schobinger said. "We dug some balls where we didn't put them in a good enough spot. I think early on, we were out of sync and out of system way too much, but once we got in system, we were in much better shape."
Dickinson High 3, Turtle Mountain Community 0
TM 19 17 17 - 0
D 25 25 25 - 3
Kills: D, Peyton Selle 10, Taylor Nelson 8, Madi Lindley 8, Mataya Mortenson 2.
Blocks: D, Audrey Rodakowski 1, Selle 1.
Aces: D, Kendryn Bullinger 14, Nelson 2, Rodakowski 2.
Digs: D, Bullinger 13, Taya Hopfauf 7, Selle 5, Lauren Jorda 5.
Assists: D, Jorda 23.
Turtle Mountain Community stats were not available.
Records: TMC, 0-14 (0-12 West Region). D, 11-13 (4-6 West Region).