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sports Jamestown, 58401

Jamestown North Dakota 121 3rd St NW 58401

The Region 3 volleyball picture will become quite a bit sharper when the ball gets bounced into play tonight in LaMoure. The top two teams in the region, LaMoure and visiting Linton-Hazelton-Moffit-Braddock, will both play its final regular-season tilt on the Loboes’ home court, with playoff implications looming large.

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LaMoure is most likely considered the underdog, as the Lions enter the match with their four consecutive Region 3 championships in tow and an overall record of 28-6. But LaMoure has turned its fair share of heads this season, battling to a mark of 27-3-1, including 10 three-set sweeps.

Also, in the team’s 33 matches, which includes three tournaments, the Loboes have played 79 sets and have only lost 10. Tonight’s match begins at 7:30.

“I feel that things are going well for us,” said Laurie Good, now in her third season coaching the Loboes. “The team seems to be gelling together, and as we come into tournament time we hope that we’re playing our best volleyball.”

LaMoure was left just on the outside looking in during last year’s playoffs. The team narrowly fell 3-2 to Ellendale for the District 5 title, but a larger blow was dealt during the opening round of the regional in LaMoure.

The Loboes had Linton-HMB on the ropes, taking the first two games 25-15, 25-15. But the Lions would not go down and came back to end the Loboes’ season 25-22, 25-23, 15-11.

“We were so close. We were up 2-0 and I felt like it was in the palm of our hands, and we just kind of broke down,” Good said. “(Lions’ coach) Jamie (Richter) has a good team and knows how to bring it back at you.

“One of our goals this year was to make the regional championship (match). We have an open wound from the way the season ended last year, and we’re trying to hopefully get past that.”

The pairings for the District 5 tournament in LaMoure and District 6 tournament in Wishek have already been determined. Both tournaments will be held Nov. 1, 4 and 5.

LaMoure (No. 1) and Ellendale (No. 2) fill the top two spots in District 5 and receive a first-round bye. LaMoure will face either Barnes County North or Edgeley-Kulm on Nov. 4, while Ellendale will play either Pingree-Buchanan or Litchville-Marion Montpelier the same day.

Linton-HMB (No. 1) and South Border (No. 2) are the top dogs in District 6. The Lions will play either Kidder County or Strasburg-Zeeland on Nov. 4, while the Mustangs will face either Napoleon or Medina.

“I know we both (LaMoure and Ellendale) have the first night off, so you get that extra night of practice, but sometimes that works against you,” Good said. “I always feel having it at home is a little bit of an advantage, but you still have to come out and play your game of volleyball, whether it’s home or away.”

The competition in the region has also been on the upswing as of late. Ellendale (22-4) and South Border (22-7) each have over 20 victories this season. The Region 3 tournament is slated for Nov. 11, 12 and 14 in Napoleon.

“We have a lot of competition this year,” Good said. “Volleyball has come a long way down here, and of course going into the tournaments everybody wants to be on top of their game, and I think they will be.

“I would say that sets and matches are won in serving and mental errors, and I think if a person could minimize serving errors and play good defense, that’s going to win you matches.”

LaMoure hasn’t won a region tournament since 2007, after winning five region titles from 2001-04. The Loboes returned a good chunk of talent this season, but the biggest void was left by the graduation of all-state setter Megan Good.

Good, the daughter of coach Good, now plays at Valley City State University.

“Coming into this year I knew we’d be fairly strong, of course you don’t know how strong, but the girls played a lot of volleyball in the offseason and worked hard,” Laurie Good said. “We have a lot of senior leadership. Our seniors definitely bring an intensity and experience to the floor. Combine that with the fire of the younger kids we’ve brought up and we just have a great mix of athletes.”

Junior Jade Wagner and eighth-grader Jackie Meiklejohn have been called on to fill the hole at setter, and both have played well. The Loboes also have a second eighth-grader seeing time on the floor in 5-foot-7 outside hitter Anna Holen.

The bulk of the senior leadership is provided by team captains Courtney Carlson (5-9, OH), Abby Warcken (libero) and Talitha Hirschkorn (5-10, MB). Senior outside hitter Siri Armitage and junior middle blocker Kennedy Witt have also played important roles.

 “The one thing we try to emphasize is focusing on being a team,” Good said. “All our girls really provide an essential role in everything we do. One person can’t go win this, it’s everybody together.”

The Loboes are also hoping they’ll be able to shake this year’s in-season tournament bug in time for districts. LaMoure fell in the championship match during tournaments in Valley City, Enderlin and Carrington this season, accounting for the team’s only three losses.

“I think it gave us an idea of what our weaknesses were and what we needed to come back and work on to make us a better team,” Good said. “I want us to just come out and finish strong. Play smart volleyball and minimize our mental errors.”

But first the Loboes will try to get past Linton-HMB tonight. The Lions have not lost a five-set match this season.

“I just think we have to go in and play our game of volleyball and not look at who we are playing,” Good said. “Sometimes (the team) will worry about who they’re playing. We just have to go play our volleyball, and the one thing you know you can rely on is your teammates and to be there for one another.”

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

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