The Linton/HMB volleyball team has not been to the North Dakota Class B State Tournament for seven years. Our Redeemers has made seven consecutive trips to the Fargodome.

The Lions will face Our Redeemers in the opening round of the state tourney Thursday at 4 p.m. Linton/HMB swept the Knights twice during the regular season, en route to a perfect 18-0 record and sweeping its way to the Region 3 championship.

"Trying to control the excitement is huge," Linton/HMB coach Jaime Richter said of the team's impending trip to Fargo. "But we are not going to be excited just to go. The focus needs to be there every day this week."

Richter said her team's focus is not on the possibility of a state championship but on the first match of the weekend.

"Our Redeemers is scary because they have been to the state tournament for so many years," Richter said. "They won't be nervous; it's like a homecourt advantage. (But) we know each other very well and we will use that to help us prepare."

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While Our Redeemers is used to the Fargodome as a program, head coach Kara Nunziato said no two experiences have been alike.

"Every year is different with its different challenges," Nunziato said. "This year has been a season of growth. At the beginning of the season both of our returning outside hitters were out with ACL season-ending injuries so we've needed to fill more shoes than we once anticipated."

Sydney Popinga has done a great job filling the spot on the outside, racking up a team-high of 227 kills. The 5-foot-9 junior has also made 225 saves on defense and smashed 58 from behind the service line. Freshman Maya Vibeto, another of Nunziato's outsides, has put 161 balls to bed and added 33 aces to the stat books.

Eden Olson is the one feeding the hungry newbie hitters.

"She is our returning setter who runs a 5-1 offense for us," Nunziato said. "She's just really allowed our hitters to become the best that they can be. She sets so consistently and she's really the glue that holds our defense and offense together."

Olson has passed the 600-mark for total assists this season.

A lot of good sets and hard swings will be needed by the Knights in order to get the ball past the defensively strong Lions.

"When it comes to Linton we know that they are an incredibly talented team," Nunziato said. "They are very balanced defensively and they have a strong offense that feeds off of their defensive abilities. We know they are scrappy and it will be a fun match to play."

The Lions have five players with more than 125 digs recorded for the year. Libero Callie Hase is leading the charge with 338 balls dug while JayCee Richter has popped up 321 balls to sophomore setter Gracie Schumacher who has 129 digs to her name.

Linton-HMB's Teegan Scherr returns a serve as Callie Hase (4) looks on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, during the Region 3 volleball championship at the Harold Newman Arena. John M. Steiner / The Sun
Linton-HMB's Teegan Scherr returns a serve as Callie Hase (4) looks on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, during the Region 3 volleball championship at the Harold Newman Arena. John M. Steiner / The Sun

The Lions' scrappy defense has fueled Schumacher and the front three as the team has four attackers with at least 100 kills. Richter emphasized the importance of each of the three roles on the court and how they play a significant role in team success.

"We have a job to do," Richter said. "I think it is going to be tough. There are a lot of good teams but the goal is one game at a time."

Nunziato added: "The team has remained focused and determined to recreate another State experience."

HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL

CLASS A STATE TOURNAMENT

AT FARGODOME

NOV. 19

G1: Bismarck Century vs. Valley City, 10 a.m.

G2: Fargo Davies vs. Mandan, 1 p.m.

G3: West Fargo vs. Bismarck Legacy, 4 p.m.

G4: Jamestown vs. W.F. Sheyenne, 7 p.m.

NOV. 20

G5: Loser G1 vs. Loser G2, 10 a.m.

G6: Loser G3 vs. Loser G4, 1 p.m.

G7: Winner G1 vs. Winner G2, 4 p.m.

G8: Winner G3 vs. Winner G4, 7 p.m.

NOV. 21

Seventh place: Loser G5 vs. Loser G6, 10 a.m.

Fifth place: Winner G5 vs. Winner G6, 10 a.m.

Third place: Loser G7 vs. Loser G8, 4 p.m.

Championship: Winner G7 vs. Winner G8, 7 p.m.

CLASS B STATE TOURNAMENT

AT FARGODOME

NOV. 19

G1: Thompson vs. Flasher, 10 a.m.

G2: Langdon/EM vs. Kenmare, 1 p.m.

G3: Linton/HMB vs. Our Redeemer's, 4 p.m.

G4: Dickinson Trinity vs. Northern Cass, 7 p.m.

NOV. 20

G5: Loser G1 vs. Loser G2, 10 a.m.

G6: Loser G3 vs. Loser G4, 1 p.m.

G7: Winner G1 vs. Winner G2, 4 p.m.

G8: Winner G3 vs. Winner G4, 7 p.m.

NOV. 21

Seventh place: Loser G5 vs. Loser G6, 10 a.m.

Fifth place: Winner G5 vs. Winner G6, 10 a.m.

Third place: Loser G7 vs. Loser G8, 4 p.m.

Championship: Winner G7 vs. Winner G8, 7 p.m.