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Abby Hintz leads the defending Region 5 champion Center-Stanton Wildcats with 341 kills and 31 blocks.

MICHAEL VOSBURG, Forum News Service

Center-Stanton swept through its Region 5 volleyball schedule during the regular season, winning all 10 matches.

However, that success hasn’t made it any less nerve-racking for veteran Wildcats’ coach Janet Erhardt heading into the Region 5 tournament.

“I’m very nervous about it because those 10 wins included a lot of close matches, and I think our region is very balanced,” Erhardt said. “What a team does in the regular season doesn't matter at tournament time. Anything can happen. There are a number of teams that are capable of winning. The most consistent team will come out on top.”

The tournament begins today at the Shiloh Christian gymnasium. The No. 1-seeded Wildcats will face No. 8 Wilton-Wing at 3 p.m., followed by No. 4 Grant County vs. No. 5 Underwood at 4:30 p.m., No. 2 Shiloh Christian vs. No. 7 New Salem-Almont at 6 p.m., and No. 3 Flasher vs. No. 6 Garrison-Max at 7:30 p.m. The semifinal round is scheduled for Tuesday, and the championship and third-place matches will be played on Thursday.

The defending region champion Wildcats posted three-game sweeps over five region opponents, and took three out of four sets against two others. However, Garrison-Max, Grant County and Underwood all took Center-Stanton to five games. Grant County and Underwood are in the Wildcats’ bracket.

“We had a difficult time with Grant County, Underwood and Garrison. Against Underwood, we were down two sets, but we turned it around and won the next three,” Erhardt said. “Grant County is a scary team. They have good athletes and they just beat the No. 2 team in our region (Shiloh). We beat Shiloh 3-1 and Flasher 3-0, but they’re very athletic and capable of putting together three solid matches. It’s going to be a very competitive tournament. We had better be ready to play if we expect to get back to state.”

Postseason experience is one thing the Wildcats have going for them. They have five players who saw extensive action in last year’s state tournament – Abby Hintz, Morgan Vitek, Mykaela Jacobson, Ashley Frank and Amber Frank. Hintz, who recorded her 1,000th career kill during the regular season, leads the Wildcats with 341 finishes and 31 blocks. Her hitting percentage is 41.2. Vitek, Jacobson, Amber Frank, Ashley Frank and Teanna Hintz have 280, 190, 127, 95 and 63 kills, respectively.

Vitek also has 512 digs. Jacobson has 291, Amber Frank 270, Ashley Frank 251, and Abby Hintz 243.

“We’re a well-balanced team up front. We’re getting seven, eight, nine kills across the board,” Erhardt said. “Teams can’t key on one or two players and that’s been a bonus for us. Defensively, Morgan has been a solid leader the past few years.”

Karsyn Haag (448 assists) and Ashley Frank (398) share the setting duties.

“Ashley and Karsyn took over for an all-state setter (Madeline Henke) and they’ve done a tremendous job,” Erhardt said.

“We have an experienced team and the expectations were high going into the season," the Center-Stanton coach continued. "We had a good (regular) season and I think we improved week to week. Now it’s time to play our best volleyball.”

The Region 3 tournament will be played at Hazelton-Moffit-Braddock High School, beginning today. District champions are Medina-Pingree-Buchanan (6) and LaMoure-Litchville-Marion (5). LaMoure-LM is the two-time defending state champion, but Medina-PB defeated the Loboes 3-2 on Oct. 24.

The Region 7 tournament begins today at Dickinson Trinity. Trinity is the No. 1 seed, and Hazen, Heart River and Hettinger-Stanton round out the top four.

The Region 8 tournament will be played at Ray. District champions are Watford City (15) and Stanley (16).