FARGO — From the mask-clad spectators to the quieter environment, the volleyball quarterfinal match between Fargo Davies and Mandan didn’t resemble any past state tournaments. But the match itself was something the teams had seen before.
Thursday’s North Dakota Class A quarterfinal between the No. 2 East seed Davies (26-6) and third-seeded Mandan (15-6) was a rematch of last year’s opening round. It was the same match with the same opponents, and the same outcome.
Though it took them two more sets this time, the Davies Eagles defeated Mandan in five sets (25-21, 23-25, 25-11, 20-25, 16-14) to advance to the semifinals. The Eagles will play No. 1 West seed Bismarck Century (20-0) at 4 p.m. Friday at the Fargodome.
Davies senior Grace Solberg, who led the Davies attack with 27 kills and helped the charge in the back with 24 digs, said there was a sense of deja vu to the quarterfinal matchup — but this time around, it went down to the wire.
“This is super exciting. It feels really good because going into five sets like that, I think that we have the confidence that we can battle back when we’re behind,” Solberg said.
The Braves were swept by the Eagles a year ago, and weren’t going to let it happen for the second year in a row. Mandan jumped out to an early 8-4 lead and stretched it to five (15-10) on a pair of Sydney Gustavsson kills in the first set.
Trailing by five, Davies called a timeout and responded with an 8-2 run. The Braves regained the advantage (21-18), but Davies overcame the deficit and a double block by Amy Kringlie and Maggie Krueger sealed the first set.
Krueger, who had 49 assists Thursday, picked up right where she left off, opening the second set with an ace. The second frame mirrored the first, with Mandan grabbing a 15-10 lead on a Taylor Leingang kill. Just like the first, Davies head coach Carolyn Olson called a timeout at the margin, which was followed by four quick Eagles points.
Tied at 20, the Braves pulled ahead to clinch the second frame 25-23 on a Davies service error.
The Eagles responded right away in the third set, jumping out to an early 7-2 lead they kept stretching. Four unanswered points took it home for the Eagles, who bounced back to take the third frame.
Mandan rallied to a fourth-set win. The Braves fed Taylor Leingang, and she delivered when they needed it most. Shortly after giving her team a two-point lead (21-19) on a spike, Leingang smashed home the set point.
With a ticket to the semifinals on the line, the teams were tied at 14-all in the fifth frame. A pair of Ava Wild kills clinched the back-and-forth final frame over Mandan 16-14.
“Going through my head was just places to put the ball down,” Solberg said. “Mandan was doing a great job on getting every ball up. Their defense was amazing, so it was really satisfying when you finally got the feeling of putting the ball down.”
Piper Harris paced Mandan with a team-high 39 digs. Taylor Leingang led the Braves with 15 kills and 29 digs. The Braves will play Valley City (14-13) at 10 a.m. Friday.