Big tests ahead in Bottineau
Following Tuesday’s regular season finale against Glenburn, the Rugby High School volleyball team will quickly shift its attention back to District 11.
The Panthers (22-7) will be the most rested team at the district tournament, which begins Thursday in Bottineau. RHS?finished the district slate 6-0, locking up the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye. Coach Jessica Fritz’s team will play the winner of No. 4 TGU and No. 5 Westhope-Newburg on Friday. The Panthers beat the Titans 3-0 and the Eagles 3-1.
“They’re both strongly competitive teams, so we’re just excited to watch them play the first night and play next,” Fritz said.
Fritz sees a fire in this year’s team after a lackluster postseason last year. Opposite RHS in the bracket is No. 2 seed Sawyer. The Flashes were the only district team to take RHS to five sets. The rematch is set if the seeds hold up through the semifinals.
“They play a tough game,” Fritz said. “Every team has those strong hitters we have to look out for. We just have to play our game. We need to control what happens, overall. We can’t see if other teams lose. We need to earn the spots.”
Senior leadership will continue as a theme. Seven seniors have increased their levels of play with the absence of classmate Helen Johnson, who was lost for the season with broken bones in her lower leg.
Classmates Emily Stier and ReeAnn Christianson have been two of the team’s top offensive players. Stier leads the team in kills.
“First, we don’t want to come in (to the tournament) too overconfident,” Stier said, “which we didn’t last year. We’re good where we’re at right now.”
Christianson is confident, but quick to point out that more work is ahead.
“I think we’re doing pretty good,” she said. “There’s still room for improvement. We’ve had a lot of people step up, especially the last couple games with people not feeling 100 percent.”
A healthy RHS team will be hard to beat. Depth perception in the large Bottineau gym isn’t a concern of the Panthers, who beat the Stars 3-1 there to clinch the regular season championship.
“We were able to play in it and that helped us a lot,” Fritz said. “We’re lucky we have a big gym here and so does Bottineau, so we’re used to it.”
No. 2 Sawyer will play No. 7 Drake-Anamoose in the first round. No. 3 Bottineau plays No. 6 Velva.
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