Top-ranked Northern Cass volleyball team having a good time on, off court
"Focused goofiness" the key ingredient for top-ranked Northern Cass volleyball team
HUNTER, N.D. — The Northern Cass volleyball team made a list of goals at the start of the season that they’re determined to accomplish.
The only unbeaten team in North Dakota Region 1 volleyball, Northern Cass has taken care of business on the court this season. But, the Jaguars are just as fun as they are focused.
“When we’re really successful, they’re having a lot of fun on the court and are very goofy on the bench,” Jaguars head coach Angie Johnson said. “I like to describe it as focused goofiness.”
That loose, fun energy has led Northern Cass to a 23-1 overall record and 10-0 mark in region play. The Jaguars, who have remained steady atop the Class B media polls this fall, haven’t dropped a match since the season-opening tournament Aug. 28. Northern Cass’ lone blemish on its record is a tournament loss to defending state champion Linton-HMB in the first weekend of the season.
The Lions swept the Jaguars in the semifinals of last year’s Class B state tournament. That exit fueled lofty playoff aspirations this season.
“Us being able to be successful in regions and go to state, it made those girls hungry for that,” Johnson said. “They’ve seen how fun it can be and that experience, so that’s what they want every year from here on out.”
The Jaguars took a step closer to fulfilling those hopes when they secured the top seed for the Region 1 tournament, which is slated for Nov. 8, 9, 11. They were able to cross one item off their list of this season’s goals with the seed designation, and are one game away from checking off another.
Northern Cass is looking to complete an undefeated season in region play, and will get a chance to pull it off Monday. The Jaguars host Fargo Oak Grove at 7 p.m. Monday in the final match of the regular season.
“Clearly we’ve had a successful season so far, but we’re not content with where we're at yet,” senior Emma Lucas said. “We still have more to do, and I think that’s a big mentality part with our team — that we haven’t been the best that we can be yet.”
The duo of Lucas and Halle Crockett have combined for more than 530 kills this season. Lucas, a 6-foot outside hitter, has 291 kills and 289 digs this season to fuel a powerful offensive attack. The 5-foot-9 Crockett, a junior outside hitter, has tallied 243 kills, 315 digs and a team-high 46 aces.
“We’re pretty well-balanced across the board and we have six players that people need to kind of watch,” Johnson said. “Anybody can contribute a kill at any time.”
Northern Cass’ defense is just as strong. Lucas, a Valley City State volleyball commit, and Crockett are two of three Jaguars with at least 289 digs this season. An additional three players have 140 or more digs.
“It only helps in the end that we always come in and work hard,” Crockett said. “We have the end goal of winning a championship, so that’s what we’ve been striving for this whole season.”
Johnson’s group has grown up together. The chemistry and bond they have has translated well to the court. Because of that history, they constantly push each other to get better, Lucas said.
The Jaguars lost a couple of key pieces from last year’s team that went 19-3 overall, 15-0 in region play, and placed fourth at state. They had to replace their kills leader in Morgan Nelson (225), digs leader Abby Rasmussen (220) and assists leader Sarah Yoney (649).
Junior setter Noelle Erickson stepped up to fill that gap on offense this season, leading the Jaguars with 431 assists this season, along with senior setter Gretta Ebertowski, who has distributed 346 assists.
“Last year, I said the whole year we have a strong six on the court and a strong bench that I was super confident to put in,” Johnson said. “And I think the same goes for this year.”
Johnson is pleased with how her team is playing down the stretch. The Jaguars outlasted No. 2-ranked Linton-HMB in five sets last Saturday to pull off a 3-2 win over the Lions, who are responsible for the team’s only loss this fall.
Northern Cass passed another tough test on Thursday, pulling off a sweep over No. 3-ranked Langdon-Edmore-Munich.