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Prep volleyball: Fargo South, Fargo North head to state tournament after long droughts

The Bruins are making their first Class A tournament appearance since 2014 while the Spartans are there for the first time since 2011.

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Fargo North's Reagan Carlson fires a shot between Oak Grove's Mari Bolme and Taylor Christensen in the Spartandome on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum
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FARGO — It’s been a long time coming for the Fargo South and Fargo North volleyball teams.

When the Bruins and Spartans take the court at the Bismarck Event Center Thursday, both will be playing their first North Dakota Class A state tournament matches in several years.

South is making its first state appearance since 2014 after topping Fargo Davies in an East Region qualifying match. North won the other qualifier over Grand Forks Red River to punch its ticket to the tournament for the first time since 2011.

Playing in a state tournament comes with both nerves and excitement. For the Bruins, it’s mostly been the latter.

“All excitement,” said fifth-year head coach Peyton Wegleitner. “A lot of these kids have played on regional or national teams, so they’ve been on big stages before — I don’t think that will be anything new to them. So we’re just excited to get there and do what we can do.”

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Any big stage comes with some measure of pressure, however. If the Spartans are feeling it, they’re certainly not going to show it.

“I think they are nervous but they hide it well,” second-year head coach Rachel Hummel said. “They don’t really show it. So everyone’s been excited and in a good mood and I’m just proud of how far we have made it and excited to see what we can do at the state tournament.”

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Fargo North players celebrate a set point against the Mustangs at Sheyenne High on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

South is seeking its first Class A title since 2007 and fifth overall. The Bruins earned a second-place finish in the EDC regular season standings with a conference mark of 19-3 and they are 26-8 overall.

The success is thanks in part to several key returners, led by senior middle hitter Emma Dalby, who was an All-State selection last season and a two-time All-EDC selection, as well as this year’s EDC Senior Athlete of the Year. Dalby leads the Bruins with 443 kills, 49 service aces and 50 blocks.

Senior outside hitter Gen Gard and senior setter Madison Jackson were also named to the All-EDC team this year. Gard leads the team in digs with 412 and is second in the kills department, while Jackson is closing in on 1,000 assists. She's currently sitting at 999.

“We had a lot of players back,” Wegleitner said. “Last year, we were pretty young and lost a couple of seniors, but for the most part our main players on the court were younger and so we had a lot of kids back with varsity experience. We had lost to (West Fargo) Sheyenne last year in the state qualifying match, so that kind of lit a fire under those young'uns just a little bit more and they came back to fight even harder.”

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Fargo South's Madison Jackson sets the ball at West Fargo Sheyenne in 2021.
David Samson/The Forum

North will chase its first state tournament crown since 2000 and its sixth in program history. The Spartans were 15-7 in EDC contests for a fourth-place regular season finish and are 25-10 overall.

The Spartans also produced three All-EDC selections in senior outside hitter Reagan Carlson, junior middle hitter Betsy Schiltz and junior defensive specialist Evy Berg.

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Carlson leads the team with 253 kills while Berg sits atop the aces category with 64 and the digs category with 590. Schiltz paces the Spartans in assists with 925 while sitting behind Berg with 44 aces and 254 digs.

A balanced attack and depth up and down the roster have been the keys to North’s success, Hummel said.

“I think being balanced overall,” Hummel said. “We’re balanced in skill level, we don’t rely solely on just one player and being able to count on the whole team to be there has helped us a lot this year.”

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Fargo North's Betsy Schiltz is introduced with her teammates before play against Oak Grove on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

North enters the state tournament as the East Region No. 4 seed and will take on West Region No. 1 Bismarck Century (32-2) in the quarterfinals at 1 p.m. South is the No. 3 seed out of the East and will face West No. 2 Jamestown (29-6) at 7 p.m.

“I’m just so proud of these girls and how hard they’ve worked,” Hummel said. “We’ve kind of been preaching for the past season here that hard work will pay off. Sometimes it’s in a win and sometimes it’s in a loss even. So just to kind of see that come through here by reaching a goal of ours to make it to the state tournament has been really great for these kids.”

“It’s been eight years,” Wegleitner added. “It’s a sigh of relief for the program, I’ll be completely honest. None of these kids know what it feels like to get to state and play at state, so it’s always felt like a barrier. But this group this year felt like it wasn’t this impossible barrier anymore and it’s something that they really chased. It’s very exciting as a coach and as a program in general to kind of break that barrier and breathe a sigh of relief. We’re hoping that this has changed the program for the better and we’ll hopefully see continued success for years to come here.”

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Fargo South's Genevieve Gard pushes a shot at West Fargo Sheyenne in 2021.
David Samson/The Forum
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Fargo South's Emma Dalby leaps for a return shot at West Fargo Sheyenne in 2021.
David Samson/The Forum

Ryan Spitza joined The Forum in December 2021 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Marquette, Mich., a city of 20,000 on the southern shore of Lake Superior. He majored in multimedia journalism and minored in public relations at Northern Michigan University, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in May 2019. While attending college, Spitza gained real-world experience covering high school and college athletics for both The Mining Journal and The North Wind.

Spitza can be reached at 701-451-5613 or rspitza@forumcomm.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryspitza.
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