There are times when volleyball teams bear a resemblance to baseball pitchers. Sometimes you win with power, and there are times when you have to rely on hitting spots.
The fastball wasn't getting it done for Century on Monday night, so the Patriots had to try hitting the corners. Plan B worked well enough to give Century a 3-1 victory at the St. Mary's gym.
Game scores were 25-17, 22-25, 25-12, 25-17. Both teams were playing their regular season finale.
"They're a very good blocking team. That's one of their major strengths," said Century's Megan Anderson.
Well said. Six-foot senior Kaitlyn Wanner was credited with four blocks for points, but the Saints rejected other CHS hits in wholesale lots.
Anderson said it turned out to be a more frustrating evening than she was expecting against St. Mary's, 7-11 in the West Region.
"They blocked better than we thought they would. ... We had some mental errors and (St. Mary's) came out and played really well," said Anderson, a 5-9 senior hitter.
Anderson said the solution was to get as many Patriots as possible involved in the attack.
"We try to spread it out to everybody. ... That gives us a one-on-one situation. We work on some other combinations that we can do and that really helped us out tonight," she said.
Eight different Century players had kills on Monday. Anderson led with 12, followed by 6-4 sophomore Lauren Ware with 10 and 5-11 freshman Julia Fitterer with nine.
Most of the night it seemed St. Mary's had a couple of blockers waiting every time Century unloaded a shot.
"Our girls like to swing, so it's hard when you're getting blocked," CHS coach Jamie Zastoupil said. "It forces us to be smarter, see the court and find the open areas."
Compounding the problem of getting around the St. Mary's blockers was some inconsistent passing by the Patriots.
"We couldn't find our ball control for awhile," Zastoupil said. "We had trouble getting the ball up to the setter, and when we did we'd hit the ball out of bounds. ... We had to piece that together."
Century dominated the third game 25-12, bouncing back with a flourish after dropping the second set. Otherwise, St. Mary's made its presence known all night long.
St. Mary's led 7-3 in the first game as Century struggled to get going. Once the visitors got off the launch pad, however, they ran off runs of seven and nine points to take command. They took the first game 20-17.
There were no such runs in the second game, which featured five ties and no leads of more than five points. The Saints took the lead for good at 15-14 on a block by Wanner.
St. Mary's took a 22-17 lead, but Century battled back and cut the deficit to 23-21 on an ace by Julia Fitterer. The Saints held on, though, to take the second set 25-22 on a block by Wanner.
Led by Anderson's three kills and Katelyn Selensky's three kills and 1.5 blocks, Century sailed through the third game.
Century took control with a 7-0 run that made it 10-2 and St. Mary's didn't get closer than seven points the rest of the way. The Patriots scored five the final six points, the final one on a kill by Fitterer, to prevail 25-12.
Game four was a lot of five-and-take until Century took flight, wiping out a 15-14 deficit with an 11-2 surge that made it 25-17. Ware found the range for four kills and a half block in the fourth game.
St. Mary's coach Kyle Kuether said the second game was something he's been waiting to see.
"We've had the potential to play like that all season, and we finally put a good game together," he said. "It was good to see the team not crack under pressure and play up to its potential."
Kuether said the Saints have gone through a wringer as the regular season wound down.
"The last 10 days have been strenuous -- Mandan, Jamestown and Century in the last three matches," he observed.
Kuether liked the way his team played each point hard on Monday, refusing to back down against the Patriots, who finished 17-1 in the West Region.
"We've talked about that all season," he said.
St. Mary's will finish seventh and play host to last-place Turtle Mountain in a play-in game for the regional tournament on Thursday at 6 p.m. Should the Saints defeat Turtle Mountain, they'll meet Century again in the first round of the regional tournament.
Williston will visit eighth-place Dickinson in the other play-in match.