RHS Volleyball: Back to Back District Champs
The Rugby Panthers went into District play last week the number one seed and showed everybody in attendance they more than deserved it.
With strong steady play from their seniors and younger players showing experience beyond their years the Panthers swept through districts without losing a match.
They opened district play against Nedrose and didn’t disappoint with dominant play and no let up and won the series with a three-game sweep 25-10, 25-12 and 25-11. Senior Shea Heidlebaugh led the way for the Panthers with 4-digs and 26-assists. Senior Ashley Schmaltz made her presence felt with 7-kills for the night. Sophomore Sara Stier also had a nice night at the net adding 6-kills to go with her 6-digs and 2-blocks. While Senior Lauren Kraft displayed her offensive prowess with 4-kills at the net and 4-aces from the service line. The Panthers totally dominated match with Nedrose with no game ever in doubt. The win propelled them to the semi-finals where they would meet Velva.
In semi-final play against Velva the Panthers came out a little sluggish but as they have all year when they get pushed they seem to find another gear. After taking the first set with a close 25-21 victory they again swept their opponent taking the next two games against Velva 25-16 and 25-17. Heidlebaugh had 29 assists for the match and with that total surpassed 1000 assist for her career; quite an accomplishment. With her assist total Heidlebaugh also added 11-digs and 3-blocks. High-flying Freshman sensation Maria Blessum played over the top with 10-kills and underneath with 11-digs. Stier led the team with 13-digs for the match, to go along with her 5-kills and 3-blocks. Lauren Kraft continued her great front to back play with 6-kills and 4-aces. The Panthers with the another three-set sweep took a ton of confidence into the finals that would pit them against rival Bottineau.
With a packed house at Charles Hanneman Gym to cheer the Panthers on they came into the finals as the only team not to lose a game to go along with their two-set wins equaling Bottineau. With a trip to regionals in Minot guaranteed for the victor and a victory for the Panthers making them back to back District Champions there was a lot on the line for such a young team.
The Panthers met the challenge head-on and swept Bottineau with three hard fought games of 25-19, 25-18 and 25-23 to give the Panthers the District Championship for the second year in a row. The Panthers rose to the occasion and played as they played all year, as a team, with everyone contributing. Shea Heidlebaugh had 17-assists. Ashley Schmaltz had 5-kills and 4-blocks. Maria Blessum had 8-kills and 8-digs. Jacque Blessum had 4-aces, as did Lauren Kraft; and Stier had 5 kills, 6 aces and 5 blocks. The three set victory gave the Panthers the District 11 Championship for the second straight year.
“It is a fun time and the girls are shocked too as much as I am. We came off of district championship last year. Hoping to get into that position again this year but every year is different. One of our goals was to be one of the top teams in the district but to be the top team in the district it is amazing”, shared Coach Jessica Fritz on the championship.
Coach Fritz is looking for good things to happen in Regionals as well though experience is not on their side. Coach Fritz said, “This is the first time for many of our girls to be at regional, the only girls that saw regional court time last year was Shea and Lauren with Ashley seeing just a little bit last year.”
“Another new 8 teams in the region. We haven’t played Minot Ryan yet but we are looking forward to playing them this year. We want to go in and prove we are the number one team in the district”, said Fritz.
Regional play starts in Minot Monday November 9th and Tuesday November 10th.
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