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LaMoure opens against Grant Co.

For the first time since 2009 there’ll be a different team representing Region 3 at the state Class B volleyball tournament, beginning today in Minot.

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The LaMoure Loboes have been on a mission all season, and after knocking off four-time defending Region 3 champion Linton-Hazelton-Moffit-Braddock 3-0 in last week’s region title bout in Napoleon, the Loboes earned the school’s sixth state volleyball appearance.

They’ll be facing Region 5 champion Grant County at 2 p.m. in the second of four quarterfinal matches inside the MSU Dome.

“We had one goal in mind and that was to win the region championship, and they made that happen,” LaMoure coach Laurie Good said, concerning her team’s big win over the Lions. “I think the girls were in that mindset that we were here to play.”

After a season that produced an impressive 33-3-1 overall record, Good and the Loboes will be hoping for more of the same against the Coyotes (28-3-2). LaMoure last qualified for state in 2007, where  it finished seventh for the third time in program history.

The Loboes have only made it through the state quarterfinals once in their previous five trips, finishing fourth in 2002.

Sizing up Grant County the past week has been a bit of a challenge for Good, as the Loboes and the Coyotes played just three common opponents this season. Both teams have victories over Enderlin and Napoleon-Gackle-Streeter, but they both played South Border — Region 3’s third-place team — twice with varying results.

The Loboes posted a pair of 3-1 victories against the Mustangs, while the Coyotes battled South Border to a 1-1 tie and a 2-0 victory during the Shiloh Christian Tournament in Bismarck back in September

“I’ve talked to a few coaches and I’ve tried to do as much scouting as I could. We’ll need to work on shutting (Sydney) Bentz down. She seems to be the dominant person everyone talks about,” Good said. “When she is in the back row we are going to go hard after that back row and try to keep it away from her.”

Bentz is a 5-foot-11 junior middle blocker who posted 23 kills and 6 blocks during the Coyotes’ 3-0 victory over Underwood during the Region 5 championship match in Bismarck. Grant County is making its second appearance at state in the last three years, finishing eighth in 2011.

Both teams are currently rolling. LaMoure has won its past nine matches, while Grant County is riding a seven-match winning streak.

“We’re not going to change a thing. We’re staying with what’s working,” Good said. “What we’ve focused on all year is playing one match at a time, and that’s basically what we’ve been talking about since the region championship.

“We play Grant County in the first round and that’s who we’re focused on. We’ve tried all year to not look too far ahead.”

LaMoure has distributed the ball nicely all season and were led against Linton-HMB by junior Kennedy Witt with 13 kills, while senior Courtney Carlson and eighth-grader Anna Holen each posted 11 in the region-clinching match.

They’ve also successfully utilized a pair of setters in junior Jade Wagner and eighth-grader Jackie Meiklejohn.

“We are just going to play the game we’ve been playing and hope that works for us,” Good said. “Right now they all seem to be in sync with each other and things are falling where they need to. The big thing is trust and having faith in your teammates and yourselves.”

LaMoure will need a win today in order to try and improve on its best state finish. But they do appear to be a bit more battle-tested.

The Loboes have already faced two of the eight teams competing at state this week. They have a 2-1 win and a 1-1 tie against Northern Cass to go along with a 2-0 loss to Carrington all during in-season tournament play.

Grant County has yet to face any of the eight teams that made it to Minot.

“The talk around town is exciting. I think we’ll have great support from our fans and that will help,” Good said. “It will be a different face coming out of our region and I hope we can represent it well.”

Sun sports writer Michael Savaloja can be reached at 701-952-8461 or by email at msavaloja@jamestownsun.com

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