Rugby, TGU advance to Region 6 tourney
The Rugby High School volleyball players feel like they’re right there. The Panthers advanced to the Region 6 tournament with a 3-0 win over Drake-Anamoose on Monday, but it was a the 3-2 loss to Bottineau that proved something.
Rugby (15-18) won the first two games of that match, a District 11 semifinal, before the champion Stars rallied. Bottineau (26-7) beat Velva for the title to earn a top seed in the region tournament. Rugby took care of the Raiders to draw the District 12 champion Bishop Ryan (34-6).
Junior outside hitter Elizabeth Blessum said the confidence gained against Bottineau is pivotal ahead of the Panthers’ first meeting against the Lions.
“It showed who we are and what we’re capable of because no one thought we could take Bottineau to five games,” Blessum said. “That was just a big accomplishment for us as a team because the teamwork it required to do that.”
Blessum led Rugby with eight kills in that match and was named to the all-district team along with senior setter Allison Volk. The offense goes through Volk, who had 23 assists against Bottineau and 12 in a dominant 25-20, 25-12, 25-11 win over Drake-Anamoose.
“It’s pretty awesome to be considered one of the best players in the district,” said Volk, who received the honor for the first time. “I’ve been the varsity setter for Rugby since my freshman year, so I guess that’s probably why.”
Her stable play doesn’t hurt the cause either. Volk had 10 aces on 23 serves against the Raiders and serves at an average of 93 percent.
Blessum was surprised to be named all-district.
“It was an honor,” she said. “It was something I’ve been working for all season and it was a nice reward.
“I never give up and I try to fire up the other girls on the court and keep them going. You can’t give up, you have to go after everything and give every game your all.”
The Panthers need to embrace a relentless attitude against a Ryan squad led by a 6-foot-1 juniors Hannah Stewart and Gabbie Bohl.
“We’ve always been a smaller team going into everything we’ve done this year,” Rugby coach Jessica Fritz said, “so we just have to be quick at the net and go around their big hitters and compensate for our lack of height.”
Fritz will keep a simple message that was communicated before the strong start against Bottineau.
“We just told them we had to go out and have fun and win,” she said. “It was a must win situation for us. We’ve noticed if we’re not having fun we’re not playing well. It’s easy to be the underdog. Nobody has expectations. You just go in and play your game. That’s what’s nice about Bottineau, nobody expected us to take them to 3-2.”
Schmitt leading Titans
The TGU Titans advanced to the Region 6 tournament with a 3-0 win (25-5, 25-15, 25-13) in a state-qualifier with Sawyer on Monday.
TGU (10-19) draws District 12 runner-up Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood (23-9) in the first round. The Titans are led by District 11 Senior Athlete of the Year Mattie Schmitt and Coach of the Year Johnna Torr. McKayla Thompson also earned an all-district selection.
“They’re both just two kids who work their butt off every time they step on the court in practice or games,” Torr said. “They’re both team players and do everything I ask. They help their teammates out.”
The Titans took a similar route to a region berth as Rugby. TGU beat Dunseith comfortably in the first round, fell in five sets to Velva in the semifinal and made quick work of Sawyer. The Mavericks present another difficult challenge.
“We’ll have to block real well and serve pretty aggressively,” Torr said. “We’ll have to pass the ball and we’ve really worked on that this year.”
The Region tournament begins Monday and runs through Thursday at the Minot Auditorium.
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