Just Out Of Reach: Century defeats Jays in Class A title match
FARGO—There was no pressure on sophomore Lauren Ware and the Bismarck Century Patriots Saturday at the Fargodome.
The two-time defending Class A volleyball state champions were supposed to be rebuilding after graduating nine seniors and three all-state performers on last year's 41-win squad.
"People kinda doubted us," Ware said. "I think that really fueled us to work our hardest and I think everything worked out the way that we wanted it to."
The 6-foot-4 middle hitter took over a deciding fifth set in the Patriots' seventh-straight trip to the title game. Ware scored six of the first nine points via kill against Jamestown, leading the Patriots to the three-peat with a 3-2 match, 15-10 final set victory over the Blue Jays.
Ware finished with a state title match-record 27 kills, helping the Patriots storm out to an 11-2 lead in the final frame. The Patriots' Katelyn Selensky also turned in a state tournament single-match record 65 assists.
Former Blue Jay standout Addie Eamon held the previous championship match record in kills with 24, which she set when Jamestown topped Century 3-2 for its state title in 2013.
"We knew that we had to come out with a lot of momentum and I think all my teammates helped out with that," Ware said. "Our energy was so high. I'm speechless."
The Blue Jays were trying to battle back from a 2-0 match deficit for a second straight night after outlasting Mandan 17-15 in Friday's semifinals. Century won the first two sets 27-25, 25-18.
Jamestown nearly overcame a 24-20 disadvantage in set 1 after senior Alyssa Ukestad came up with a kill and a block to help the Jays pull ahead 25-24. But back-to-back kills by Ware followed.
"That was a good set for us and it got away from us," Jamestown coach Sara Hegerle said. "It's tough to come back after being down 0-2 and our kids did it."
Blue Jay junior Courtney Peterson slammed back a free ball for kill late in set 3, helping the Jays score back-to-back points to end the frame 28-26 in favor of Jamestown. The Jays closed with 7-2 run after trailing 24-21.
The Patriots then trailed the Jays 24-21 in set 4, but a critical Century service error while tied at 24 was followed with Blue Jay setter Megan Gaffaney finding McKayla Kurtz on the outside for one of her team-high 15 kills, winning the set 26-24.
Gaffaney, who was named Class A's senior athlete of the year, scored 39 assists, 10 kills and three blocks in the match. She was also selected to the all-tournament team, along with Peterson and senior libero Hannah Schiele.
'We competed hard," Gaffaney said of the Jays' gritty, come-from-behind effort. "This just shows who we are. We never give up ... I'm grateful to be with them."
A 5-0 run by Jamestown late in the fifth closed Century's earlier nine-point advantage to 13-10. But kills by Bailee Blickensderfer and Ware ended the match.
"Any time you beat Jamestown you must have played the match of your life," Century coach Jamie Zastoupil said. "We knew we were going to have a tough match. They are so amazing defensively and they've really become such an explosive hitting team.
"I don't know if we play this again how it comes out," Zastoupil added. "It's different every time because we are so closely matched."
Gaffaney, Schiele, Kurtz, Ukestad, Olivia Nihill and Jordan Paulson played their final match for the Blue Jays. Jamestown (37-6) handed Century (36-8) it's only head-to-head loss of the season; a 3-0 sweep at JHS on Sept. 7.
"They've given so much to this program. They will be missed," Hegerle said of her seniors. "This isn't the way we wanted to end it, so it's tough right now. But we'll look back at this in a little while and we'll be able to appreciate the memories that we've made."
N.D. Class A Tournament
Bismarck Century 3, Jamestown 2
BC 27 25 26 24 15
JHS 25 18 28 26 10
BC—Aces: Allison Abel 2. Assists: Katelyn Selensky 65, Mya Klein 3, Chloe Markovic 2. Kills: Lauren Ware 27, Megan Anderson 21, Julia Fitterer 14, Bailee Blickensderfer 7, Katelyn Selensky 3, Bailee Otterness 1. Blocks: Otterness 5, Selensky 3, Ware 2, Fitterer 2. Digs: Abel 34, Markovic 21, Selensky 18, Klein 17, Fitterer 15, Blickensderfer 12, Otterness 8, Ware 5, Anderson 3, Ashley Scherbenske 4.
JHS—Aces: Hannah Schiele 1, Megan Gaffaney 1, Jordan Paulson 1. Assists: Gaffaney 39, Courtney Peterson 4, Alyssa Ukestad 3, Schiele 2, Olivia Nihill 1, McKayla Kurtz 1, Kameron Selvig 1. Kills: Kurtz 15, Peterson 12, Gaffaney 10, Ukestad 8, Paulson 6, Selvig 1. Blocks: Gaffaney 3, Ukestad 3, Paulson 2, Selvig 2, Kurtz 1. Digs: Schiele 29, Peterson 18, Gaffaney 16, Ukestad 13, Nihill 8, Paulson 5, Selvig 3, Kurtz 2.
Records: Century 36-8; Jamestown 37-6.
Fargo Davies: Kenzee Langlie.
Bismarck: Lauryn Andre.
West Fargo: Tiana Pfaff, Kalli Hegerle.
Valley City: Reagan Ingstad, Cali Halgrimson, Kacee White.
Mandan: Kennedy Harris, Megan Zander, Elizabeth Leingang.
Jamestown: Hannah Schiele, Megan Gaffaney, Courtney Peterson.
Bismarck Century: Megan Anderson, Lauren Ware, Katelyn Selensky.
Class A senior athlete of the year: Megan Gaffaney, Jamestown.
Class A coach of the year: Jill Taylor, Valley City.