FARGO -- If you don't lose games, you end up a state champion.
That's the story of the Linton/HMB volleyball team.
The Lions capped off a perfect 25-0 season besting Langdon Area/Edmore/Munich 3-0 in the Class B state championship game Saturday evening at the Fargodome. The sweep was the Lions' ninth consecutive and 23rd of the season.
"It's actually surreal, I just can't believe it," Linton/HMB head coach Jaime Richter said. "I knew that we had an opportunity to do it, and I knew these girls would come fighting, but it's just hard to believe.
"I mean, I will wake up tomorrow and I'll be like, 'Oh my gosh, it really happened.'"
Richter's batch of fighters have been playing together -- Richter included -- since the team was in elementary school, which happens to be around the same time Linton/HMB last made an appearance at the state volleyball tourney.
"The very first traveling tournament I went to was them in third grade and we started JO's in fourth grade," Richter said.
"I remember when my little ones were fifth-graders and we played against Century in a tournament. I remember Julia Fitterer hitting the ball in our faces. They beat us the first set and in the second I remember saying, 'Girls you just got keep digging the balls and keep them out of system and we've got a chance to win,' and we won that tournament."
Century beat West Fargo 3-1 in the Class A state title game.
That determination was evident on the Lions' side of the court even in the low moments.
From the first serve, Langdon/AEM did not take it easy on the top-seeded Lions.
The Cardinals kept within four points the entire match thanks to big serves and swings from senior Lexis Olson and junior outside Morgan Freije. The duo helped the team come back from a 12-8 deficit to lead it 18-17. The Cards continued on their run serving up three unanswered points to put the team up 21-18.
The Lions returned the favor, clawing back to tie it up at 23 apiece - then 24, then 25.
JayCee Richter aced the Cardinals to get the team's 26th point and Teegan Scherr, a junior, ended the set with a kaboom on the outside.
"She had a phenomenal game for me," Richter said of Scherr. "She was unstoppable and hit that sharp spot almost every time tonight. They had no answers for her."
Langdon/AEM tried to come up with answers.
While Richter made another ace from the backline to start the second, the Cardinals' dynamic and tall front row put up a block that was tough to defend against. The Cardinals went on a 7-0 run, pushing the ball to the deepest regions of the court.
"They have some big hitters," Richter said of the Cardinals' offense. "It's hard to be able to watch because there is so many coming at us. They run a little bit slower offense than Oakes or Northern Cass but when you have a big powerful hitter coming at you, it's hard to dig up the ball."
The Lions put up a battle clawing their way back from the six-point deficit to come within one. The Cardinals tried to pull away again and made the lead two, but for every point one team put up the other answered. The back half of the second set saw four tied scores, but Langdon/AEM still controlled the pace of the set until the Lions posted a 9-3 to go up 23-17.
The Cardinals rallied with two more points but the Lions were too much to handle. Shaylee Bosch ended it with a kill drilled straight to the Cards' gap in the middle of the court.
"They made more plays than we did," Langdon/AEM head coach Rich Olson said. "There's a reason they have been ranked No. 1 most of the year. They've got playmakers everywhere that don't flinch under pressure."
Olson said his Cardinals had a chance to win the whole match establishing early leads in all three sets.
To Olson's point, set No. 3 didn't start out in Linton/HMB's favor with the Cardinals going up 4-1 and junior Kim Gefroh leaving the match for the first few points due to a tumble taken after an attack. The Lions rebounded with a 3-0 run to make it 12-10 Cardinals then worked to tie the game at 14. Gefroh then returned to the set to help the team go up 18-15.
But the Cardinals were not finished.
Olson's state tournament returners went on a 7-0 run to regain the lead 21-18, forcing Richter to take 60 seconds to talk her team down. But if Richter's players know how to do anything, it's how to battle.
The Lions forced extra points again in the fourth after Langdon/AEM tied it up at 24. The Lions clinched the match, the sweep, the championship, off an attack from Scherr that cut across the tape and landed in front of the 10-foot-line.
"It is such an amazing feeling," Scherr said. "It's so great to share it with them."
Linton/HMB 3, Langdon/EM 0
L/EM 25 20 24
LHMB 27 25 26
L/EM -- Kills: Cora Badding 13, Lexis Olson 11, Morgan Thielbar 7, Kaylee Lowery 4, Jalynn Swanson 3. Assists: Swanson 32, Lowery 4, Lexis Olson 2, Marlee Hetletved 1. Digs: Hetletved 26, Olson 24, Morgan Frije 14, Lowery 11, Swanson 7, Halle Jabs 3, Badding 2, Thielbar 2, Raelyn Klindt 1. Aces: Freije 3, Swanson 1, Lowery 1, Olson 1, Thielbar 1. Blocks Olson 3, Lowery 2, Badding 1.
LHMB -- Kills: Scherr 20, JayCee Richter 9, ShayLee Bosch 7, Emily Kelsch 3, Gracie Schumacher 1, Kim Gefroh 1. Assists: Schumacher 37, Scherr 2, Kelsch 1. Digs: Callie Hase 28, Scherr 18, Richter 17, Schumacher 14, Kelsch 9, Gefroh 5, Bosch 1. Aces: Richter 3, Scherr 2, Schumacher 1. Blocks Kelsch 3, Schumacher 2, Gefroh 2, Richter 1, Bosch 1.
North Dakota High School Coaches Association Awards
Class A Senior Athlete of the Year: Grace Hegerle, Jamestown.
Class B Senior Athlete of the Year: Sadie Hansen, Oakes.
Class A Coach of the Year: Jamie Zastoupil, Bismarck Century.
Class B Coach of the Year: Jamie Richter, Linton/HMB.
HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL
CLASS A STATE TOURNAMENT
G1: Bismarck Century 3, Valley City 0 (25-15, 25-9, 25-18)
G2: Fargo Davies 3, Mandan 2 (25-21, 23-25, 25-11, 20-25, 16-14)
G3: West Fargo 3, Bismarck Legacy 1 (21-25, 25-15, 25-20, 26-24)
G4: Jamestown 3, W.F. Sheyenne 2 (25-16, 14-25, 25-14, 19-25, 15-8)
G5: Mandan 3, Valley City 1 (25-19, 25-16, 20-25, 25-21)
G6: Legacy 3, West Fargo Sheyenne 0 (25-22, 26-24, 25-22)
G7: Century 3, Fargo Davies 0 (27-25, 25-22, 25-23)
G8: West Fargo 3, Jamestown 0 (26-24, 25-6, 25-19)
Seventh place: West Fargo Sheyenne 3, Valley City 0 (25-21, 25-20, 27-25)
Fifth place: Mandan 3, Legacy 2 (25-19, 16-25, 21-25, 27-25, 15-8)
Third place: Fargo Davies 3, Jamestown 0 (25-21, 25-23, 25-18)
Championship: Century 3, West Fargo 1 (16-25, 29-27, 25-17, 25-19)
CLASS B STATE TOURNAMENT
G1: Thompson 3, Flasher 0 (25-12, 25-20, 25-20)
G2: Langdon/EM 3, Kenmare 0 (25-19, 25-17, 25-22)
G3: Linton/HMB 3, Our Redeemer's 0 (25-15, 25-17, 25-12)
G4: Northern Cass 3, Dickinson Trinity 0 (25-12, 25-23, 25-15)
G5: Flasher 3, Kenmare 2 (25-22,16-25, 25-20, 26-28,15-11)
G6: Dickinson Trinity 3, Our Redeemers 0 (27-25, 26-24, 25-8)
G7: Langdon/EM 3, Thompson 0 (25-18, 25-22, 25-15)
G8: Linton/HMB 3, Northern Cass 0 (25-22, 25-27, 25-21)
Seventh place: Kenmare 3, Our Redeemers 1 (25-22, 25-20, 21-25, 25-11)
Fifth place: Dickinson Trinity 3, Flasher 0 (25-12, 25-19, 25-13)
Third place: Thompson 3, Northern Cass 2 (25-23, 25-18, 23-25, 13-25, 15-12)
Championship: Linton/HMB 3, Langdon/EM 0 (27-25, 25-20, 26-24)