FARGO-The last time Bismarck Century didn't make a state championship match, Regan Dennis was in the sixth grade. Growing up in the Century volleyball program and looking up to the Patriot seniors before her, Dennis knew expectations were high.
A match away from another state title match, Century, the returning state champs, drew Fargo Shanley, the state winners in 2014. The programs had faced off in those previous two state title contests, so Dennis was fully prepared for a tough go.
But she and the West Region's top-seeded Patriots rose to the challenge.
Dennis put down the final two kills to seal Century's sixth consecutive state championship berth with a 25-17, 18-25, 25-21, 26-24 win over the East Region's No. 2-seeded Shanley in the North Dakota Class A state semifinals on Friday, Nov. 18, at the Fargodome.
"It's crazy how that works," Dennis said of Shanley and Century's meetings. "It's come down to both good teams playing for a state championship, and I'm really glad we pulled out the W."
The Deacons (27-10) took an early lead in the first set, but the Patriots (40-2) scored five unanswered points to spark a 20-10 run en route to a 1-0 set lead. After an even start in the second set, Shanley gradually pulled away with an 11-5 run and held off a late Century rally to even the match. Shanley kept it going and took an early lead in the third set, but Century went on a 7-3 spurt to tie it up and closed on a 6-2 run to take another set lead.
In the fourth and final set, the Patriots took an early advantage with a 7-2 run, but the Deacons fought back and tied things up at 12-12. Neither team scored more than three in a row from then on, sending the set to extra points tied at 24-24. The Patriots continued to go to Dennis and she came through with the match-clinching kills.
To come that close, Shanley head coach Curtis Johnson said, is tough, but he couldn't complain about his team's play. It was a matchup the Deacons weren't afraid of-Johnson admitted it just wasn't their turn to win.
"A point here or there and we may pull a fifth set off," Johnson said. "We gave it our best shot. Tonight it just wasn't good enough. Take your hats off to Century, they're a good team, but honestly I think we're just as good. Tonight it was just their night."
In these past years of success, Century co-head coach Sara Bohrer said the younger players looked up to the upperclassmen for leadership and then fulfilled those roles when it was their turn. But no matter how much success the Patriots have had until this point, they still want one more win.
"We had our peaks and valleys, but when we had our peaks our girls really felt that energy," Bohrer said. "We just talked to our girls a lot about playing level headed, staying calm and playing to win."
FS (kills-block-aces): Vetter 2-4-2 (41 assists), Roberts 11-3-0, Berg 10-1-1, Kanwischer 12-6-0, Manz 0-0-0 (18 digs), Dew 3-1-0, Dietz 10-1-0.
BC: Klein 13-4-1, Dennis 18-2-1 (17 digs), Schwartz 0-0-4 (25 assists), Schulte 0-0-1, Clarke 1-0-0, C. Clark 7-3-0, Selensky 5-5-0, Doppler 13-0-0, S. Clark 3-0-0, Mann 1-0-0, Ware 0-2-0.