They're are all in. Together.
The Oakes High School volleyball team is headed to Linton on Monday for the Region 3 tournament with the No. 1 seed in hand. Oakes will face Strasburg/Zeeland in the opening round at 2 p.m.
At 32-3 on the season, the Tornadoes have put up some impressive numbers and have claimed back-to-back District 5 tournament titles. Though stats and records boast of the team's talent and skill, head coach Shari Christenson said a contributing factor to the team's success was formulated months before the start of the season.
"This group of girls is the 29th team that has played volleyball for Oakes," Christenson said. "At the beginning of the summer, they committed to leaving everything on the court and doing everything they could to have an amazing season."
It's a kind of culture that has set Oakes apart from other teams in the region.
"We just been really intentional of just making sure that the team comes first," Christenson said. "One of our big goals this year is to have shared joy for each other.
"It doesn't matter if somebody is getting the most kills or somebody's getting the most digs, or if somebody's on the bench or anything like that. It's that we're all after one goal and it's just been a really cool experience with these girls because they've bought in 100% to that."
The Tornadoes' roster is led by a group of seniors on and off the court. Outside Nicole Schmitz is Oakes' leading hitter with 460 kills on the year, while senior libero Claire Wagner has totaled more than 1,000 digs in her three years as a starter. Senior defensive specialist Jaida Seyer has also been an anchor in the back row with aggressive serves and consistent receptions.
"We have six seniors on our team and then we also have a junior setter who's been the varsity setter for four years," Christenson said. "We've got lots of experience on this team and that's something that we are going to lean on during this tournament."
Sadie Hansen has been feeding the ball to the front row since the middle of her eighth-grade season. Hansen has recorded 503 assists this fall and more than 3,000 in her four seasons as a starter.
"She's like the quarterback of the team," Christenson said. "To have somebody that has been doing it for four years -- she just makes things run really really smoothly and is a great leader out there."
Christenson added: "There are nine other girls on the team that are a huge reason for our success. During practice, the non-starters are on the other side of the net giving it their all and making the starters better every day."
While Oakes has its leaders in the front and in the back, Christenson said the team's talent and experience are deeper than the six on the court or the 13 dressed on the roster.
"My assistant (coach), Brian, is also my husband," Christenson said. "We have been coaching together since 2003. He is an expert on developing individual skills in our players. He has the knowledge and ability to be a successful head coach anywhere. What a blessing he is to this team.
"Coach Roxy Miller has been a part of Oakes volleyball for almost two decades. She has a relationship with these girls that can not be replicated. She is definitely our team mom and makes sure everything is taken care of. She is able to settle the girls down if they are nervous and isn't afraid to hold them accountable when they need it. We would not be where we are without coach Brian or coach Miller."
The talent is there for Oakes to repeat as the Region 3 champ and advance to state at the Fargodome on Nov. 21, but Christenson acknowledged it will be a hard-fought battle in Linton.
"I am just so excited to watch these girls in the region tournament," Christenson said. "To fight against the other teams in the toughest region in the state. It's fun to be a part of. You know that whoever comes out of this region is going to be battle-tested and will do very well at the state tournament."
Cardinals like their chances
Energy and balance. It's the story of the 2019 Carrington High School volleyball team.
The Cardinals claimed District 5's No. 2 seed for next week's regional in Linton and will face Napoleon/Gackle-Streeter in Monday's quarterfinals.
"We played them a few weeks ago and it was a 3-0 win," Carrington coach Dale Peaslee said of NGS. "We don't take anybody lightly because if you don't play well, and play poorly, all of a sudden you find yourself on the south end of the score."
Senior middle blocker Bella Hone has recorded 385 kills and 125 stops at the net. Setter Addison Hoornarert has smashed the school's career assist record by more than 600. The senior has totaled 893 assists this season and has fed the ball to the front more than 2,500 times during the course of her career. On defense, Lexi Page has popped up the ball 333 times while Marah Schmitz has added 327 digs to the books.
While the Cardinals' leaders boast experience and talent at the net and in the back row, Peaselee noted balance and consistency have helped contribute to the team's 32-4 overall record.
"I think balance is what we do well," Peaslee said. "We're not a team with a superstar or two but we have players who have to do their roles. We don't want to have a weak spot or something that is vulnerable."
Sydnie Grager, Hannah Hagel, Page and Schmitz have combined for 682 of the 1,151 team kills and 144 blocks at the front. The team also has tallied a 95.2 serving percentage.
The Cardinals fell to Oakes 3-2 in the District 5 tournament championship match last Monday in Carrington. Peaslee said it was a disappointing loss, but the Cardinals are continuing to reach for the team's ambition.
"It's not hard to stay motivated because our goal was beyond a district championship," Peaslee said. "Our goal was a region championship and to contend for state. You just have to stay positive and keep working.
"It's a great year, it's a great group and I think that this group has the ability to keep moving on."
Region 3 Tournament
At Linton High School
Nov. 11 quarterfinals
Oakes (32-3) vs. Strasburg-Zeeland (24-9), 2 p.m.
Medina/PB (18-15) vs. LaMoure/LM (30-8), 3:30 p.m.
Linton/HMB (28-9) vs. Midkota (16-11), 5 p.m.
Carrington (32-4) vs. Napoleon-GS (12-18), 6:30 p.m.