Stars shine bright

TOWNER – The Bottineau volleyball team hadn’t forgotten last year’s loss to Velva in the District 11 championship on the Aggies’ home court.

Fueled by last season’s disappointing runner-up finish, the Stars overwhelmed Velva 25-11, 25-16, 25-10 on Monday in front of a boisterous crowd at Towner High School to grab the district title and a No. 1 seed in the Region 6 tournament.

“That really motivated us to win today,” senior setter Bailey Neubauer said of last year’s loss to Velva. “I think we all played to our potential.”

Bottineau never trailed and the match was tied just once – 1-1 in the second set – as the Stars jumped out to big leads early in each set.

Junior middle blocker Stephanie Brenden led the Stars’ attack with a match-high 14 kills and Neubauer finished with 23 assists.

The Stars (24-7-2) will play the No. 4 seed from District 12 in the first round of the region tournament at the Minot Municipal Auditorium. The Aggies (14-17-1) are the No. 2 seed and will play the No. 3 seed from District 12.

The Stars came out white-hot, scoring the first nine points of the match. Brenden recorded three kills and senior outside hitter Courtney Gallagher two, while Neubauer served one of her match-high seven aces during the opening stretch. The Aggies recorded their first four points on Bottineau miscues before kills by Brenden and Gallagher stretched the Stars’ lead to 21-8.

“The girls really came out and set the tone in each of the three sets,” Bottineau coach Steve Dunrud said. “We served well tonight and did a pretty good job of passing the ball. Put those two things together and you’re usually going to have success.”

Communication breakdowns haunted Velva the entire match as balls would drop between two players or passes would be off the mark of their intended recipients. The Aggies also had seven service errors.

“Hopefully it’s an easy fix,” Velva coach Molly Terveen said. “It’s not so much the skill. We have the skill, we just didn’t show it tonight. It’s in our heads. It’s between our ears right now.”

Brenden, Gallagher and Neubauer shined again in the second set. The trio accounted for five kills and two aces in the final 10 points of the middle frame.

“It feels good,” Brenden said. “We’ve been wanting this for a long time and working hard for it. We really wanted it.”

The Aggies surrendered the first six points of the third set, which included three consecutive Neubauer aces. Bottineau senior outside hitter Karlee McCloud added back-to-back aces later in the set for a 16-4 advantage. The Stars finished with 12 aces.

While the district title is nice, the No. 1 seed is important when matching up with District 12 opponents. The Stars were 0-3 against the top three teams from District 12 – Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood, Our Redeemer’s and Bishop Ryan.

“I think it is important, but I think there are more than three good teams in that district,” Dunrud said. “Maybe we can stay away from a team that’s hot right now. It’s going to be tough no matter who you play.”

Neubauer, Brenden and senior middle hitter Danielle McDonald, as well as Velva senior Cassidy Peterson and junior Sadie Hackman were named to the all-district team.

TGU 3, Sawyer 0

TOWNER – TGU senior middle hitter Mattie Schmitt recorded a match-high 10 kills and six blocks as the Titans defeated Sawyer 25-5, 25-15, 25-23 in a District 11 tournament region qualifier Monday.

The host Titans scored the match’s first 14 points on a mix of kills by Schmitt, aces by junior middle hitter Paige Brodehl and a number of Sawyer miscues. Flashes senior outside hitter Myrena Denselbeck broke the run with one of her team-high seven kills, but TGU responded by taking 11 of the final 15 points.

“I think we just played our game,” TGU coach Johnna Torr said. “We were trying to play a little uptempo and stick with what we know.”

The second and third sets were more competitive, but with the same end result. Tied 13-all midway through the second set, the Titans outscored the Flashes 12-2.

Sawyer appeared poised to extend the match to a fourth set, leading 22-20 in the third. But TGU won the next two points as well as the final three. TGU freshman middle hitter Angie Anderson recorded the final two kills of the match.

Rugby 3,

Drake-Anamoose 0

TOWNER – Rugby used its serving game to power past Drake-Anamoose 25-20, 25-12, 25-11 in a District 11 tournament region qualifier Monday.

Senior setter Allison Volk had a match-high 10 aces – seven in the third set – and junior outside hitter Elizabeth Blessum finished with five. The Panthers were locked in a tight opening set, clinging to a 21-20 lead before winning the final four points.

The second and third sets were decided early as Rugby jumped out to large leads. The Panthers led 12-0 to begin the second set and 10-0 in the third. The Raiders trailed 17-1 in the second before making a late push. However, the deficit was too large to overcome.

Volk rattled off six consecutive aces in the third set and led 19-4 late. Another late run by D-A was nullified by the wide margin as the Panthers advanced to regionals.

Rugby junior middle hitter Emily Stier had a match-high seven kills and Stier and Blessum accounted for three blocks apiece.

Mike Kraft covers high school athletics, the Minot State University men’s club hockey team and the Minot Minotauros. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.