The Carrington High School volleyball team is focused on one team heading into the Region 3 championship match and it's not top-ranked Linton/Hazelton-Moffit-Braddock.
"We really need to focus on ourselves," Carrington head coach Megan Trautman said. "If we are confident in the back row and aggressive at the net, really good things happen for us. Also, if we keep up the aggressive play and rely on one another, I really like our chances. We will need to communicate really well with one another and have high energy."
Carrington, the District 5 champion, will go head to head with the Lions on Saturday at the University of Jamestown's Harold Newman Arena. The match is slated to begin at noon.
Linton is the only undefeated team left in North Dakota Class B volleyball. The Lions cruised to a District 6 title sweeping both Kidder County and South Border.
"My girls are fighters," Linton/HMB head coach Jaime Richter said. "They play with a lot of heart. I think being best friends helps them win some big games during some big times."
The Lions last made an appearance at the state tournament in 2012.
Carrington faced Oakes in the District 5 tournament championship game on Nov. 2. The Cards were down two sets to none and managed to battle back for the win. By earning the District 5 title, the Cardinals held homecourt advantage for the first two rounds of the region tournament.
"I liked the set-up of the tournament," Trautman said. "Of course, in a perfect world, we would have been able to have more fans, but being able to play in the postseason during the pandemic and being able to have as many fans as we have has been nothing short of awesome and special."
Carrington cruised to 3-1 and 3-0 victories over Napoleon/Gackle-Streeter and South Border at their home venue.
"Getting to the title game required a lot of focus, aggressive play and trust in our teammates," Trautman said. "The girls had a slow start in the opening round against Napoleon, but once they started to relax and find some confidence things really started to click for us."
Three players in the front row have been exuding confidence all tournament long.
"Our go-to attackers have, of course, been Hannah (Hagel), Sydnie (Grager) and Lexus (Page)," Trautman said. "All three have been so consistent and confident this regional tournament."
Hagel, a senior outside hitter, has added a fair share of stats to her already impressive totals. Hagel leads the team in total kills with 238 and has also put 26 balls to bed from behind the service line. The senior has also made 26 stops at the net.
Page, another senior on the outside, has hammered home more than 100 balls when she's at the net. When Page isn't killing the ball she is busy popping them up. Page has posted a team-high of 246 digs.
Grager, a junior middle, is just one kill shy of reaching 200 this season. The 6-foot hitter has also topped the blocking charts with 64 rejections.
Trautman said the Cardinals have also gotten a spark of energy from Haley Wolsky at the net. Wolsky has recorded 35 official blocks. The head coach said starting setter Tessa Page (464 assists, 29 aces), Emma Rindy (147 assists) and back row players, Bre Mittleider (221 digs) and Taryn Hoeckle (201 digs), have given their all day in and day out.
The Lions are planning on frustrating the Cardinals' dynamic net play and fast-paced offense on Saturday.
"Our defense is definitely solid and my girls are relentless when it comes to not letting balls drop on the floor," Richter said. "They just keep digging and digging. I think that is one of the things that makes where we are at right now. We gotta play hard tomorrow."
No matter which way the point goes, Trautman said she has a personal cheering section in tow to revamp the Cardinals' spirits.
"I also can't ever miss an opportunity to praise my players on the bench," Trautman said. "My girls on the bench are so supportive, great communicators and really have made the difference in important and stressful situations this post-season.
"The girls are ready to come together to achieve their common goal," Trautman said. "I have to give all the credit to each of our 14 players for constantly focusing on what's best for the team."
CLASS B REGION 3 TOURNAMENT
AT HIGHER SEED
(District and seed in parenthesis)
G1: (D6 1) Linton/HMB 3, (D5 4) Ellendale 0 (25-9, 25-7, 25-13)
G2: (D5 2) Oakes 3, (D6 3) Strasburg/Zeeland 0 (25-19, 25-21, 25-22)
G3: (D5 1) Carrington 3, (D6 4) Napoleon/GS 1 (28-26, 20-25, 25-18, 25-18)
G4: (D6 2) South Border 3, (D5 3) LaMoure/LM 2 (25-23, 24-26, 25-19, 7-25, 15-10)
G5: (D6 1) Linton/HMB 3, (D5 2) Oakes 0 (28, 26, 22)
G6: (D5 1) Carrington 3, (D6 2) South Border 0 (23, 25, 15)
G7: Linton/HMB vs. Carrington, noon, Harold Newman Arena, Jamestown (championship)