FARGO -— The Mandan Braves were determined not to let West Fargo bury them. As a result the Braves ended the Packer state title hopes with a shocking 3-2 victory on Thursday.
Mandan's triumph in the quarterfinals of the state Class A volleyball tournament at the Fargodome propels the Braves into today’s 5 p.m. semifinal match against Jamestown with a 24-15 record. West Fargo drops into the consolation bracket with a state-best 32-2 record.
The defeat ends a 25-match Packer winning streak.
Mandan hitter Megan Zander, a 5-10 junior, said the key to the match was keeping the Packers from going on any long runs.
“We tried not to dig a big hole for ourselves. It takes a lot of energy to come back when that happens,” Zander said. “… We struggled, but we had to keep pushing our energy and not let them get away from us.”
Mandan showed a ton of grit in the fifth game, playing catch-up most of the way. Down 13-10, the Braves ran off six of the final seven points, two on hits by 5-foot-8 junior Sydney Walters and one kill each by Zander and 6-foot junior Emily Tweten. The match ended 16-14 on a net violation by West Fargo’s Kalli Hegerle.
“We never give up,” Zander said. “Even if we get down a couple of points we know we can come back and win. … We knew we couldn’t get down on ourselves.”
Mandan served notice that it was going to compete hard by breaking four ties down the stretch and winning the first game 25-21. The Braves scored the final four points of the game, the last two on kills by 5-foot-8 junior Sydney Walters.
West Fargo returned the favor in the second set, breaking a tie at 21 to score the final five points, the final two on kills by the 5-11 Hegerle.
Mandan took command at the start of the third game, which ended 25-18. Zander led the way with five kills and two blocks.
Their backs to the wall, the Packers gutted out a 25-22 decision in the fourth game, coming back from a 14-10 deficit. The game was tied at 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23 down the stretch. The Packers strung together the final two points on a tip by Hegerle and a hitting error by Walters.
West Fargo led the fifth game most of the way, but surrendered the lead to a 7-1 Mandan run that put the Braves ahead 14-13.
A hitting error by Zander knotted the game at 14, setting up the decisive two points.
“Whenever we’re down we push harder and go for the big goal,” Zander noted.
Mandan played the Packers in the first tournament of the season, losing a 2-1 match. Zander said the Braves learned West Fargo had some dangerous hitters, and that good defense would be vital. The Braves got great defense, both at the net and on the back row.
“This is one of our best defensive games, for sure,” Zander observed. “… They’re a good hitting team, but we managed to pick up a lot of their shots.”
While acknowledging West Fargo was a good team, Zander said the Braves, the No. 4 seed from the West Region, hit the floor intending to win.
“We came out with better energy,” she said. “We knew they were a good team, but we were able to get past them.”
Zander led the Mandan attack with 18 kills and added four blocks. The Braves had five players with six kills or more, including Tweten and Walters with eight apiece. Mandan rang up 17 blocks. Lakyn Darras, a 5-10 sophomore, set the pace with five. Elizabeth Leingang had two of Mandan’s six aces and 29 of the Braves’ 116 digs. Olivia Moe, a 5-7 junior, topped the team with 37 digs.
Hegerle and Darian Chwialkowski, a 5-11 senior all-stater, each drilled 19 kills for West Fargo. Tina Pfaff, a 5-9 senior, added 11 kills and three blocks. The Packers had four aces.
Mandan now goes against a Jamestown team that has won nine of its last 10 matches. The two teams met twice during the regular season. Jamestown won 3-2 at home in September and 3-0 at Mandan last month.
Jamestown 3, Fargo Davies 0
Jamestown won for the ninth time in 10 matches, sweeping Fargo Davies to wash away the taste of a loss in last week’s regional tournament championship match.
The sweep notwithstanding, Jamestown wasn’t on East Street against Davies, the No. 3 seed from the East Region.
Jamestown broke away from an 18-18 tie to win the first game 25-20. After a convincing 25-16 win in the second game, the Blue Jays found themselves trailing 13-7 in the third set.
The Blue Jays rallied to tie the third set at 15-15 amid a five-point run that gave them an 18-15 lead. Jamestown led the rest of the game and closed the match out by scoring the final five points.
McKayla Kurtz, a 5-6 senior hitter, said winning games that are up for grabs, as was the case in the first and third sets, is good preparation for what’s to come the next two days.
“A lot of the games are going to be harder (this weekend), so it’s good that we had those closer games,” she said. “… This was a good, clean volleyball match, so we’re ready.”
Kurtz smacked 17 kills to lead the way for Jamestown and senior Courtney Peterson added 10. Peterson’s three blocks were among 11 Jamestown rejections.
Freshman Grace Solberg cranked out 13 kills for Davies, now 24-10.