HUNTER, N.D. — Northern Cass is on its way to the Fargodome. The Jaguars defeated Kindred 16-25, 25-17, 25-23, 25-20 to win the North Dakota Class B, Region 1 volleyball championship on Saturday at Northern Cass School.
Northern Cass will make its third appearance at the state tournament. It won a state title in 2013 and returned to the tournament in 2018.
“It’s really surreal,” Northern Cass setter Sarah Yoney said. “We’ve just been taking it one day at a time the whole season. We’re very thankful to get this win and that we’re able to play still.”
North Dakota announced new restrictions Friday as a result of the worsening COVID-19 outbreak. As a part of those new restrictions, all winter high school athletics will be suspended until Dec. 14, but the state volleyball tournament is allowed to continue as planned next Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Fargodome.
The volleyball exemption is a contrast to March when the North Dakota Class A state basketball tournament was halted in midstream in the early stages of the pandemic.
“It’s been kind of a guessing game this entire season if we were even going to get to have a season,” Jaguars coach Angie Johnson said. “And then with people having to quarantine during the season, and then OK now we have to wear masks to prevent the quarantines. Now we’re just going to be thankful for every single game we have and take it one game at a time.”
Johnson said she was proud of the way her team responded after dropping their first set. The Jaguars came right out and took an early lead in the second set, fought through a back-and-forth middle and finished strong. With the match tied back up after the second set victory, they were able to calm down and get a little more comfortable and take the next two and the region championship.
“I knew there was a little bit of anxiety coming into this game,” Johnson said. “You’re on your home court, you’re the No. 1 seed. I knew they would be nervous. For them to bounce back after that first one was really nice to see. And for them to stay together as a team is what we’ve been talking about all week.”
There were 10 ties and seven lead changes in the back-and-forth third set. The Jaguars trailed 22-21, but finished with four of the final five points to take the set. Emma Lucas closed it out with a kill on an assist from Yoney. It was Yoney’s 10th assist of the set and Lucas’ fifth kill. Lucas led the team with 14 kills in the match and Halle Crockett was second with 12.
Northern Cass took control of the fourth-and-final set early and held on through the end. They jumped out to a 5-1 lead right away. Kindred fought back to take a 19-18 lead, but Northern Cass closed the door down the stretch. They finished on a 7-1 run to seal it up. Halle Crockett had back-to-back kills to record the 24th and 25th points.
“Our mindset is really good,” Yoney said. “We’ve been able to push through a lot of adversity. We have a lot of grit and we’ve been able to come together and work as a team.”
Yoney racked up 31 set assists, distributing the ball to the variety of hitters the Jaguars can deploy. Lucas had a team-high 14 kills while Crockett had 12 and Morgan Nelson had 8.
“We have a lot of great people on our team,” Yoney said. “Our team is very deep and there are a lot of players that can come off the bench too. I’m very thankful that I have a lot of hitters that I can go to all the time.”