Pick your poison. It comes in many different fun flavors.
That's the conundrum facing volleyball opponents facing Century. In any given match, any of a half dozen CHS players can make life miserable for the opposition.
Tuesday night Julia Fitterer, a 5-foot-10 junior who has been inflicting pain for several weeks, was the ringleader for the Patriots, pounding out 11 kills in a sweep of St. Mary's. She had plenty of help from 5-10 junior Hattie Fitterer (9 kills), 5-10 junior Sarah Fleming (8 kills) and 5-10 freshman Logan Nissley (6 kills).
The upshot was a 25-23, 25-13, 25-19 victory over the Saints at the CHS Olson gym.
"We really tried to focus on their outsides ... but you really can't focus on any of them," said St. Mary's head coach Kyle Kuether.
The victory gives Century a final regular-season record of 23-2, 17-1 in the West Region. St. Mary's will enter postseason play with a 15-10 mark, 10-8 in the region. Century is the No. 1 seed for the regional tournament, which begins Nov. 14 in Jamestown. St. Mary's will enter the regional tournament as the No. 5 team.
St. Mary's proved a worthy opponent Tuesday night, particularly in the first and third games.
Eleven ties enlivened things in the first game, the last deadlock at 18.
Hattie Fitterer put the Patriots ahead to stay at 19-8 with a kill that started a three-point run. The Saints recovered to pull within a point at 21-20, 23-22 and again at 24-23 on a kill by Hallie Schweitzer.
The exciting set ended with a thud, however, on a violation. What first appeared to be a game-tying kill by Schweitzer was ruled a net violation following a conversation between match officials.
Century took command of the second game early, running off six unanswered points to open a 7-3 lead. Julia Fitterer hammered two resounding kills in that game-changing burst.
St. Mary's drew no closer than three points during the remainder of the set. A seven-point run that included three tallies by Nissley put the brink of taking the game before a violation made it 24-13. On the next serve, a kill by Nissley closed the game, 25-13.
In the third game, St. Mary's started out like it meant business. Schweitzer and Elizabeth Peyerl each had two kills as the Saints scored eight unanswered points for a 9-5 lead.
There were ties at 11 and 12 before a kill by Nissley put CHS ahead for keeps at 13-12.
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Century was unable to build a lead of greater than three points until a kill by Fleming put the Patriots on top 21-17. Fleming's counter jump-started a 5-2 run that clinched the game, 25-19 and the match for the Patriots, who have won 17 straight matches. A kill by Hailey Fletcher closed the books.
Julia Fitterer had a balanced effort with 11 kills, 13 digs and an ace.
Peyerl, a 5-7 senior, had a strong offensive night with 12 kills, five of them in the first game.
The loss was the fourth in five matches for the Saints, who ran the gauntlet in the final two weeks. Those four losses were to Century, Jamestown, Bismarck and Mandan, the teams ahead of St. Mary's in the regional standings.
Kuether said there's no panic in the St. Mary's camp, though.
"Century played well like they usually do. ... We competed hard. I thought we pushed them hard. It was a good test," he said.
"We played aggressive and didn't give them easy points, and they pushed us a lot, too," he added.
After 25 matches, Kuether said he won't be trying to re-invent the wheel in the nine days before the regional tournament.
"We'll work on fundamentals and try to improve a little bit. ... They key for us is not getting too relaxed in nine days. We've got to keep that competitive flow going," he observed.
Century head coach Jamie Zastoupil said she liked what she saw Tuesday night.
"The girls overcame some obstacles against a good-blocking team. ... It was a fight," she said. "We got out of system a few times. ... We want to stay in system. We have faith in our setters, and I thought we did a good job (in-system) tonight."
Zastoupil said the Patriots have become a deep and balanced team throughout the regular season.
"We have a really well-balanced team. We had players on the bench tonight who I have full confidence in. That gives us a lot of options. ... I do think we've grown a lot this year. ... There are a lot of lineups we can use, and we have buy-in from the girls. This group really wants to compete and maintain the Century tradition."
That tradition includes a lot of winning. The Patriots have won the state Class A tournament the last four seasons.