BISMARCK — Fargo Shanley head coach Mark Quenette kept it simple after Friday's semifinal loss to defending state champion Bismarck Century.
“We fought. We did a lot of good things, and just came up a little short,” Quenette said.
Nobody was going to stop the Patriots from reaching the state championship for the 11th straight season. Top-seeded Century took care of business on Friday as it swept its way into the title match. The Patriots got it done on offense and defense in a three-set (25-18, 25-15, 25-18) win over Shanley.
“They're really well-coached and they don't really have a weakness,” Quenette said. “You can't take advantage of a weakness if there isn't any. That's a big roadblock for any team.”
Century controlled its side of the court and won all three sets by at least seven points. The Patriots made few mistakes Friday as they shut down the No. 2 seed from the East in front of more than 150 Century students who were in attendance.
“It's just as special as ever,” Century senior middle hitter Macy Fridgen said. “We have a lot of experienced players going into it, so it's super exciting, but we have a lot of young players, too, so it's fun to give them that experience.”
Century will look to defend its state title in Saturday’s 5 p.m. championship match against crosstown rival Bismarck High. The Patriots have made it to the championship every year since 2011, winning six state titles during the run.
The Deacons are set to face West Fargo in the third-place match at 3 p.m. Saturday.
Shanley knew what it was up against in the volleyball dynasty that is Century, but the Deacons were ready for the challenge, Quenette said.
“We were confident and loose, going in,” Quenette said. “We knew we could compete with them. That was our mentality going into this. It was positive and confident.”
The Deacons would have to pull from that confidence to get past Century, which mounted a 23-13 lead in the opening set. The Patriots found open court and hammered home kill after kill to run away with the first frame 25-18.
“We wanted to focus on lots of ball control and court awareness,” Fridgen said. “Coming in from playing in the exhibition hall and then coming into the main arena, it's a different area. We really wanted to control our side of the court and came out with a lot of confidence.”
Fridgen, who finished with 10 kills, had a number of big swings for the Patriots. Century boasts a multi-pronged attack that saw three players tally 10 or more kills Friday. Logan Nissley fired off 12 kills, while Claire Bauman had 11. Nissley also had a team-high 15 digs. The Patriots, who found success with a balanced back row, had four players tally 10 or more digs.
Shanley and Century traded points to start the second set, which was knotted at 7-all. The Deacons were able to hang tough early, but were no match for the onslaught the Patriots were about to carry out. Century put together a 12-3 run to grab a 10-point lead at 23-13. The Deacons tried to answer, but there was no slowing down Century as it cruised to the second-set win.
Explosive enough on their own, the Patriots got a boost from the overflowing student section.
"It's just been a fun tournament," Fridgen said. "We’re in Bismarck — which is a little weird, we're used to it being in Fargo — but it’s been great. We've had a lot of energy, we had a lot of fans here. It's just been kind of electric in here."
The Patriots made quick work of the third and final frame. They didn’t allow Shanley to go on any big runs and held at least a three-point advantage for nearly the entire set.
"It hurts. But we've got to just have a short memory and we have a chance tomorrow to end our season with a win," Quenette said.
Hannah Hoedl had a team-high 20 digs for Shanley. Paige McAllister led the way for the Deacons with 10 kills and a pair of aces. Clara Robin followed with eight kills and Shayna Roach with six.