West coach Anna Folk wanted her team on an even keel for Tuesday's second game of the Optimist All-Star volleyball series.
"Coach Anna said she didn't want us to play like a roller coaster. She wanted us to play like a racetrack," said West hitter Rebecca Nitsch.
The West paid heed, playing smoothly and steadily to defeat the East 3-1 in the second and final match of the series at Mandan High School. Game four, a 25-12 East win, was a mere appendage, the West having won the first three sets 25-23, 25-19, 25-18.
The East won the first match 3-1 in Fargo on Monday.
The West's goal of consistency was realized. Until the fourth game, the East's longest run of the evening was three points.
Nitsch, a 5-foot-10 graduate of Legacy, said the West's improved performance on Tuesday had a lot to do with the setting.
"I definitely think the crowd helped us a lot. ... It was really different having the home crowd to back us up. It was definitely a different feel tonight," she observed.
Game one was every bit as tight as the final two-point margin indicates. There were 11 ties, the last at 20 on a tap by the West's Courtney Peterson. A block by Masy Kuntz and an errant hit by the East's Taylor Zak gave the West a 22-20 lead, and it led the rest of the way. A tip by Kuntz clinched it for the West.
Games two and three followed a different script. The West took and early lead in both and stubbornly refused to surrender the advantage. In the second game the West grabbed a 2-0 lead and led all the way, using a 5-2 finish to clinch a 25-19 match. Two kills by Kyley Lauf and an ace by Taryn Allmaras closed out the set.
A kill by Nitsch broke a 4-4 deadlock in the third game and put the West ahead to stay. The East trailed just 18-16, but fell victim to a 7-2 closing rush by the West. Nitsch's left-handed tip secured the match-clinching 25-18 win.
The East raced away to a 13-5 lead and dominated the inconsequential fifth game.
"We ran out of gas, but since we had the win it really didn't matter," said Nitsch, who will play volleyball at Bismarck State College, come autumn.
Nitsch and Peterson, a 5-10 hitter from Jamestown, shouldered much of the West attack, finishing with 11 and 10 kills, respectively. Setters Emma Fricke of Legacy and Alexa Walby of Dickinson Trinity totaled 20 and 18 assists, respectively. Tessa Olson of Minot Our Redeemer's had a busy night on the back row with 24 digs.
Olivia Dobrinz, a 6-1 hitter from West Fargo Sheyenne, lead all attackers with 13 kills. Kyleigh Toso of Devils Lake and Bailey Nelson of Fargo Shanley followed with eight and seven counters, respectively. Jordyn Stroup of Shanley and Payton Richter of Central Cass racked up 17 and 16 assists, respectively. Averi Beyer of Fargo Davies paced the East with 24 digs.
Folk said her team's approach to the match was much better on Tuesday.
"We were a little more relaxed to start with. I think that's why we played together better," she said.
She reminded her players after Monday's loss in Fargo that all-star matches are not life-and-death affairs.
"It's OK to make a mistake," she noted. "It's all for fun. It's pure enjoyment. ... (On Tuesday) we didn't let a won or lost point ruin us for the next two or three."
Nitsch said much of what she'll take away from the all-star volleyball experience has nothing to do with points won or lost.
"We spent a lot of time together as a group. ... I made some friendships that will last forever," she observed.