Northern Cass battles back to defeat Linton, win first state title since 2013
The Jaguars forced five sets to defeat the two-time defending champion Lions Saturday night.
BISMARCK — It took a full five sets to determine the 2022 Class B state volleyball champion Saturday night as the top two seeded teams in the state, the Northern Cass Jaguars and Linton-HMB Lions, faced off in the finals.
When it was all over, the No. 1 seeded Jaguars stood victorious, winning 25-11, 23-25, 21-25, 25-21, 15-10 at the Bismarck Event Center.
Northern Cass earned its first state title since 2013, exacting revenge for a loss to Linton-HMB in last year’s final.
“It feels amazing,” said Northern Cass coach Angie Johnson. “Those girls did it, I just got to watch an amazing game. We just made sure that they stayed true to themselves, that was the big key, and just having the confidence. All of our coaching staff, all the parents, everybody believed they could do it but they had to believe in themselves and they did.”
After a dominant win in set one, the Jaguars fell behind two sets to one as the Lions edged them out in the second and third sets. Josie Jensen put the cap on the set four comeback with a block and a kill to force set five.
Trailing 9-6 in set five, a kill by Jocelyn Aasen set up the go-ahead run with Addy Rust serving.
Northern Cass put four points on the board in the run — including a block from Aasen and a kill by Halle Crockett — as the Jaguars took an 11-9 lead.
After a quick point from Linton, Halle Crockett had another kill to put the Jaguars back in control, 12-10. She then stepped up to serve.
Two consecutive blocks by Jensen set up the match point, which the Jags won when Linton was unable to return a shot.
Crockett described what she felt as she took over for the last three serves.
“There was definitely nerves,” Crockett said. “But, we had momentum going into the fifth set. We just stayed composed and that’s what got us through one point at a time.”
Crockett said she “couldn’t have asked for a better ending” to close out her and her fellow seniors’ final year as Jaguars.
“It is the greatest feeling ever,” she said. “It’s so memorable. We came back. We were down two sets and we came back. We fought hard and gave it all we had.”
Jensen — who also earned the winning kills in sets one and four — said the key to the comeback was supporting one another.
“We just had to rally around each other and believe in each other that we could do it,” Jensen said. “We just had to stay confident.”
Jensen added how just much the state title meant to the Jaguars.
“It means everything to us,” she said. “It’s just a great send-off for our seniors. It means the world to them and means the world to us to be able to come back and do it and really finish it out.”
Jensen led the team with 20 kills and 10 blocks. She also had 13 digs.
Addy Rust and Noelle Erickson each had 21 assists. Halle Crockett had 10 kills and 26 digs while Cady Evenson (15), Aasen (14) and Rust (11) also hit double digits in digs.
Linton-HMB’s Jaime Richter was named the NDHSCA Class B Coach of the Year while Linton senior ShayLee Bosch was named Senior Athlete of the Year.
Watching her team come back to take the win was an especially proud moment for Johnson.
“I am so proud,” Johnson said. “We’ve been doing that a lot lately so it’s good that we were able to overcome that hump. They had a lot of grit and determination in the end.”
Following the win in set four, Johnson brought her energetic team together and told them to use that energy in a positive manner in set five. That’s exactly what they did.
“They were really fired up going into the fifth set but I tried to calm them down,” she said. “I loved their energy but we needed to channel it into something constructive and they did a really good job.”
Johnson added that it means a lot to send off the seniors — the first freshmen group she coached — in winning fashion.
“It’s huge,” she said. “I get emotional when I talk about them. They were my first freshmen group. They’ve trusted me for the last four years and I’m so happy we can send them off with this.”