FARGO-Central Cass hitched onto its veteran players Tuesday night at Darwin Gorder Gymnasium, a formula that proved successful.
Seniors hitters Lily Pyle, Carlie Kieffer and Maddy Sweep combined for 27 kills, eight blocks and 11 aces to lead the top-seeded Squirrels to a 25-18, 24-26, 25-13, 25-14 victory against the Richland Colts in the North Dakota Class B Region 1 volleyball semifinals.
"Our seniors were big leaders tonight," Squirrels head coach Nikki Nelson said.
Central Cass (28-11) advanced to Thursday's region championship, which is expected to start around 7:30 p.m. No. 5-seeded Richland will take a 19-13 record into Thursday's third-place match.
"They put so much serving pressure on you and keeping you off balance and then we're pushing and they're in system swinging away," Richland head coach Craig Pool said of Central Cass.
The Squirrels finished with 15 aces. Kieffer led the way with seven, while Pyle and junior setter Payton Richter added four apiece.
"As soon as you make a mistake and you don't put the ball where you want to put it, you start overthinking things," Pool said.
Central Cass finished the match with a flurry, scoring the final 11 points in the fourth set, after Richland had tied the score at 14-14. Sweep helped fuel that strong finish with two kills. She also added back-to-back blocks to cap a 25-14 set win that closed out the match.
"They believe in the themselves and they had faith and they came out and just put it away," Nelson said.
Pyle ended with a match-high 12 kills, while Kieffer and Sweep added 10 and five, respectively. Sweep led her team with five blocks. Junior hitter Kylie Grommesh had 11 kills. Richter finished with 36 assists.
"I love my team," Pyle said. "We all work so hard and we all bring each other up. It's so amazing to be out there with them. We're really working well together and we put everything together tonight."
Senior hitter McKenzie Breden and sophomore hitter Katlyn Erickson paced the Colts with 10 kills each. Junior hitter Kennedy Flaa added nine kills and two blocks. Eighth-grader Megan Roob had a team-high 20 assists with four kills and two aces.
Pool said this was the first time the Colts have made the region semifinals in 16 years.
"The girls have been great to work with throughout the season," Pool said. "We've turned it around."
Northern Cass 3, Lisbon 1
A three-pronged hitting attack vaulted No. 2-seeded Northern Cass to a 25-22, 21-25, 25-18, 25-17 victory against No. 3-seeded Lisbon in the region semifinals.
Jaguars junior Bailey Nelson led the way with 22 kills, while junior Faith Aasen and sophomore Sydney Anderson added 12 and 11 respectively.
"The amount of good hitters we have on offense is insane, and when our passes get on and when our sets get on, the hitters can really slam down," Nelson said,
Northern Cass (24-7) plays Central Cass for the region championship. The Squirrels swept the Jaguars during the regular season in October. Northern Cass hasn't made the Class B state tournament since 2013.
"To have a shot at that means a lot to them," said Northern Cass head coach Tom Klapp, who is in his seventh season.
"It's just one step closer to where we want to be," Nelson added.
After splitting the first two sets, the Jaguars started to take control in the third. Lisbon cut the Northern Cass lead in the third to 17-15 after a kill from senior hitter Elizabeth Lyons. The Jaguars responded with the next five points and took a 22-15 lead after a Lisbon hitting error. That scoring burst led to a 25-18 win in Set 3. Northern Cass rode that momentum in the the fourth set, earning a 25-17 win to close out the match.
Nelson's kill gave the Jaguars match point.
"We knew that we needed to get this win to get to the championship game. Just that motivation helped us," Nelson said. "We had so many younger players just step up and get kills when we needed them and get good (digs) when we needed them, and it was the best thing ever."
Lyons paced the Broncos (27-10) with a match-high 25 kills and added three blocks and two aces.
"She's such a good player, she's such a smart player," Klapp said of Lyons. "She gets kills on not just hitting big, she kills and stuff like that."
Senior setter Hannah Opp had 29 assists for Lisbon. Sophomore setter Liberty Fix led Northern Cass with 37 assists.