FARGO-Richland senior hitter McKenzie Breden was filled with pride Monday at Darwin Gorder Gymnasium, moments after her team rallied for victory in the North Dakota Class B Region 1 volleyball quarterfinals.
"I was just really, really proud of us," Breden said. "I have nothing but happiness for my teammates."
Breden finished with 17 kills to help lift the No. 5-seeded Colts to a dramatic 25-27, 28-26, 23-25, 25-17, 15-11 victory against the No. 4-seeded Fargo Oak Grove Grovers to reach the region semifinals.
"I think it has a lot to do with our senior leadership," Richland head coach Craig Pool said. "Those girls don't want the season to end. I was just so happy for these kids. Your heart goes out to them."
Richland (17-11) plays top-seeded Central Cass at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7, in the semifinals. Oak Grove (20-15) had its season end in the quarterfinals. Junior hitter Lauren Forness lead the Grovers with 15 kills, while junior hitter Madeline Nelsen added 13 kills.
Oak Grove took a 2-sets-to-1 lead after winning the third set 25-23. The Grovers led by as many as 10 points in that set, taking an 18-8 lead before the Colts rallied. Richland cut the Oak Grove lead to 24-23 after a Sydney Haverland ace, before the Grovers closed out that set. Pool said that comeback gave his team momentum going to fourth set.
Richland scored eight of the first 10 points in the fourth en route to a 25-17 victory.
"We knew we had to come back stronger and we had to get those tough plays, hustle plays, everything mattered," Breden said.
The Colts built a 9-5 lead in the fifth set after an Oak Grove hitting error. The Grovers rallied to cut the Richland lead to 11-10 and 12-11, but were unable to draw even or take a lead late in the deciding set.
"That's incredibly important. Momentum is a big swing thing," Pool said. "It came down to making some plays at the right time and making that hustle attempt. They dived after every ball, we prolonged so many points."
Richland scored the final three points in the fifth set. Sophomore hitter Katlyn Erickson scored match point, ripping a kill through a block attempt. Erickson finished with 12 kills. Megan Roob added 25 assists.
Morgan Niemiller had 48 assists for Oak Grove. Grovers junior hitter Kelyn Johnson added 12 kills.
Central Cass 3, Kindred 0
The risk-reward tradeoff was worth it for Central Cass.
The top-seeded Squirrels' aggressive serving led to 12 aces. Those points helped vault Central Cass to a 25-19, 25-11, 25-23 victory against the Kindred Vikings in the quarterfinals.
"We serve aggressively, that means that our serving percentage tends to be lower, but if we're getting more points of out it than just playing it safe, then we're going to take that risk," Central Cass head coach Nikki Nelson said.
The Squirrels (27-11) had five different players finish with multiple aces. Lily Pyle and Kenzie McKinnon had three aces, while Kylie Grommesh, Carlie Kieffer and Payton Richter finished with two apiece.
"Double digits is where we want to be," Nelson said.
"In the beginning of the season we decided to toughen up our serving," Kieffer said. "We wanted to toughen it so we can get the other team out of system."
Kindred threatened to extend the match to four sets, taking a 20-19 lead in Set 3 after a service ace from senior Teresa Klinnert. The Squirrels responded by scoring six of the next nine points. The score was tied at 23-23 when Kieffer delivered back-to-back kills to close out the set and the match.
"I think that really tested our mentality and mental toughness, and being able to go back to those basics and being smart and strategic about plays really helped," Kieffer said.
A senior hitter, Kieffer finished with a match-high 11 kills. Pyle added nine kills, while Richter had 24 assists. Nelson liked the way here team responded to adversity in the third set.
"I like that we don't ever get to terribly frustrated to the point where it negatively affects our play," Nelson said. "They are very good at learning from what just happened."
Senior hitter Taylor Keller paced No. 9-seeded Kindred (12-24) with six kills and two aces. Senior setter Laura Biewer added 14 assists.
"Both teams played well," Kieffer said. "We both gave each other competition, which was good, and it was a good way to start off the whole tournament. It went really well I think."