Oakes shaping up to be a strong contender in Region 3
The Oakes High School volleyball team is off to a good start this season.
OAKES (N.D.) — No point goes unearned in Class B volleyball.
"Class B volleyball is so fun to watch, not only is it very competitive it’s also very exciting as no one’s ticket to State is easily earned," said Lily Thorpe, a junior for the Oakes High School volleyball team. "Lots of close matches and upsets make Class B volleyball hard to not watch.
Two weeks into the 2022 volleyball season, Thorpe and her teammates have fought and clawed their way through each match played. Oakes is sitting at 1-1 in District 5 but 5-3 overall.
The first conference match Oakes played was a five-set nailbiter with LaMoure/Litchville-Marion which they lost 25-23, 18-25, 25-15, 21-25, 17-15.
"Region 3 is always a competitive region," Thorpe said. "This year I think there is a lot of new talent being shown as well as hungry teams."
The team's next Region 3 test will come in the form of South Border on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Oakes.
Thorpe is Oakes' starting middle hitter. She is also one of the three captains head coach Katelyn Hagen has selected.
"I’ve been playing volleyball since I was in fifth grade," Thorpe said. "I play club at match box in Aberdeen, South Dakota during the spring, which has really helped me stay consistent and build skills.
"This year I am focusing on my blocking. Blocking is the most important job of a middle and I’ve really taken a liking to working and building on my block last year and this year too."
Thorpe also plays in leagues with her team during the summer months. The junior said playing together in the off-season has helped to maintain and improve Oakes' overall tempo and speed of the game.
"Our skills have really come out strong early on this year."
But Thorpe's teammate, Bethany Harris, reminded her:
"We have many skilled players on our team, but we have said a lot this year that talent can only take you so far. There is going to be good competition and high intensity games. It will be a battle for the Region title."
Linton/HMB is once again the clear favorite to earn the Region 3 title. The two-time defending state champs, have reloaded once again. Stars like senior middle ShayLee Bosch, senior outside Paige Hulm and three-year starting setter, Gracie Schumacher are all back for the Lions.
Linton/HMB is 3-0 in Region play and 7-1 overall, having fallen to 2021 state runners-up, Northern Cass, 2-1 in the Northern Cass Tournament back in August.
"This year there are many teams who are hungry for the region title," Harris said. "The competition is high. Class B volleyball has incredibly good athletes and competitive matches that are fun and exciting to watch."
The last team to advance to the Class B state tournament before Linton's two-yearstreak was Oakes back in 2019.
Oakes lost in the 2019 Class B State title game 3-1 to Langdon/Edmore-Munich.
"This team could be something special and the more hard work we put it the farther it will take us," Thorpe said.
"This season’s chemistry has started out well but our chemistry and communication is something that we are always looking to improve."
Thorpe said Oakes has a really committed group of girls and coaches where everyone shows up and they hold each-other accountable. Those were the standards of the team from the beginning of its inception.
"All our coaches put so much time into their players and are always finding ways to make us better," Harris said. "We also put in a lot of work in the summer, and it pays off."
The team's practice sessions normally starts with a lot of passing and progressions. The team also focuses on defense and blocking. Chemistry is developed through team drills like 5-on-5 out of system and Queens. Adding focuses on to drills is a big part of learning placement and shots for the Oakes' offense.
"We will be working on our consistency and chemistry as the season goes on," Harris said. "I love volleyball because of the competitiveness and the high intensity energy you experience while playing or watching. There is always something you can do to better your game. "