WDA volleyball preview: Blue Jays excited to host tourney
It's been nine days since the Jamestown High School volleyball team has played a match and it is raring to go.
The Jays will be playing host to the 2019 West Region volleyball tournament beginning tomorrow (Nov. 14) at Jerry Meyer Arena. Jamestown head coach Sara Hegerle said the No. 2-seeded Blue Jays are ready to fight for a berth at the state tournament on their home court.
"Playing at home this week is awesome," Hegerle said. "Yes, there is a little more pressure for our team, but it only adds to the excitement.
"This is a good time to see if our kids can handle a little pressure."
Since a two-point match loss to top-seeded Bismarck Century on Oct. 15, the Blue Jays have rifled off nine straight victories to improve to 22-5 overall. JHS will face the tournament's No. 6 seed, Dickinson, at 5 p.m.
"First round against Dickinson should be a good match," Hegerle said. "They have athletic players that have improved all season. Our team will have to play consistently and with a lot of energy right from the start."
Consistency has been the name of Jamestown's game against the Midgets this season, sweeping Dickinson twice. Junior outside Grace Hegerle has tallied 35 kills against Dickinson, while Jessa Anderson has added another 15.
"The players have been looking forward to this weekend for a while," coach Hegerle said. "We love our crowd. They always show up to encourage and support the Jays.
"The anticipation is driving us all crazy. We just want to play."
Balanced Patriots carry target
Bismarck Century is ready to defend its long-standing run of success, but Patriots coach Jamie Zastoupil acknowledged it won't be without a fight.
Century has won both the West Region tournament and the Class A state volleyball tournament four years running. The Patriots open the tournament at 1 p.m. facing Minot.
"I think that the West Region is so competitive this year," Zastoupil said. "I think anybody could show up on any given night and I think you are going to see a lot of really good volleyball."
Century is without 2018-19 Gatorade Player of the Year Lauren Ware, who lost her senior season due to an unfortunate knee injury. Zastoupil acknowledged the Pats had some holes to fill in the front without the 6-foot-5 middle blocker.
"Our team has changed not having Lauren, but I think what it's done is it's really balanced out our team," Zastoupil said. "We're not going to have a go-to hitter. We've got six ... all averaging eight or nine kills per match."
Junior right-sides Arianna Backman and Hailey Fletcher have combined for 199 kills on the season. Junior outsides Hattie Fitterer and Julia Fitterer have put 339 balls to bed thanks to consistent distribution by setters Kaia Lill and Delani Clarke. The two setters have totaled 588 assists.
Zastoupil said another one of the team's main strengths lies in serve-receive, noting consistent pop-ups have allowed the Pats to run a dynamic and powerful hitting line. Senior libero Chloe Markovic averages 20.3 digs per match posting a total of 367 in regular-season play.
"We always kind of feel that target on our back," Zastoupil said. "The girls know that we have to compete for every point, every set, every match. We're just excited to play in the tournament and get the postseason going."
Braves embracing fresh start
Mandan coach Anna Folk and the Braves are looking forward to hitting the reset button this week in Jamestown. The Braves are seeded fourth and will play Bismarck St. Mary's at 3 p.m.
"Sometimes it's kind of refreshing to finish those last matches and we're all 0-0," Folk said. "It's kind of a get-down-to-business thing."
Folk said Piper Harris will be a huge asset against St. Mary's. Harris, the Braves' lead passer, has recorded 419 digs for Mandan so far this season averaging 23.2 per match. Mandan is strong in the back, but the Braves also boast a dynamic front line that St. Mary's will have to guard against.
"Lakyn Darras is our big middle. She's been playing full time for the past three years," Folk said. "She's a really fun and dynamic player to watch."
Darras has produced 243 kills. The senior also sits as the team's leading blocker with 31.5 rejections at the net.
"Taylor Leingang, a junior in the middle, has also kind of stepped up these last couple weeks," Folk said. "She's just super smart and aggressive with the ball."
Junior setter Sydney Gustavsson has totaled 594 assists and has added 153 digs to the books.
"I think we've had some really good rallies the last couple of times we've played," Folk said. "We just need to focus on one thing at a time, not get too caught up in the overall tournament and making it to state or making it to the championship game."
West Region Tournament
At Jamestown High School
Nov. 14 quarterfinals
(1) Bismarck Century (23-2) vs. (8) Minot (9-17), 1 p.m.
(4) Mandan (18-7) vs. (5) Bismarck St. Mary’s (15-10), 3 p.m.
(2) Jamestown (20-5) vs. (7) Dickinson (17-16), 5 p.m.
(3) Bismarck (19-6) vs. Bismarck Legacy (13-13), 7 p.m.
Loser-out, 1 and 3 p.m.
Semifinals, 5 and 7 p.m.
State qualifiers, 12 noon, 2 p.m.
Championship, 4 p.m.