If Tuesday's volleyball clash between Century and Mandan was a battle to see who had more moxie, you'd probably have to rate it a standoff.
On the scoreboard, though, Century left the Mandan gym the winner of a five-set thriller by a margin of 25-23, 25-19, 15-25, 23-25, 15-13.
"I feel relieved that we got this under our belts ... and our team continued to play in a really tight situation," said Lauren Ware, Century's 6-4 sophomore, who rocketed 26 kills.
Century coach Jamie Zastoupil said inconsistency made the match something of a technical disappointment. But she loved what she saw when the going got tough.
"I'm not happy with our inconsistency ... but nine of our 10 (players) were playing five sets for the first time ever and I liked what I saw," Zastoupil said. "... When it came down to the big points, we were able to catch it and get it."
Mandan coach Anna Folk said her team did things the hard way by dropping the first two games. But then they bared their fangs, which was a really good sign.
"We're only halfway through the season and we're only two points away. ... That shows our kids have a lot of guts and a lot of potential yet to be developed," she observed.
The first game could have gone either way. Neither team led by more than four points. Century broke away from a 21-21 tie to prevail 25-23. Ware was dominant with eight kills and two blocks.
Century outscored Mandan 8-3 down the stretch to take the second game 25-19.
That's when Mandan kicked things into high gear. The Braves stung the Patriots 12-2 to start the third game and prevailed 25-15. The fourth game started the same way, Mandan jumping away to a 12-2 lead and hanging on to edge CHS 25-23.
Ware came up big again with the match on the line. Century regained its momentum as she drilled the first two points of the set to the floor and led the rest of the way.
Mandan closed the gap to 13-11 with a five-point run. The Braves lost an eye-popping sixth point when a brilliant dig on a Ware blast and subsequent kill by Courtney Olson was disallowed. The point was replayed and a block by Ware put Century up 14-11.
Olson and Megan Zander teamed to block Ware and Olson smacked a kill to trim Mandan's deficit to 14-13.
On the next serve, however, Ware ended it, laying down here 26th kill of the night.
Zastoupil said she was impressed with the leadership Ware showed shopping the Mandan express.
"Lauren Ware had a lot of weight put on her shoulders and the girls just trusted her. ... She wasn't afraid to swing," Zastoupil noted.
Ware said she didn't feel like the match was hers to win or lose. She said the Patriots had other hitters -- seniors Megan Anderson, Katelyn Selensky and Bailee Blickensderfer, for instance -- to keep Mandan's defense honest.
"Everyone else takes some of the load off. ... Our setters do a good job of distributing the ball to the other hitters, too. ... Everyone has good set-up skills," Ware observed.
With the victory, Century, 6-1, remains in second place in the West Region behind Jamestown, undefeated in regional play. Mandan dipped to 7-3 in the region and slipped to fourth behind Legacy, 7-2.
Ware said the Patriots learned a couple of lessons on Tuesday. They found Mandan to be a tough opponent, and they learned that nothing comes easily.
"We learned not everything is handed to you. You've got to be relentless with a lot of guts and confidence," she said. "... But being in this situation was a good opportunity for us."