Jaguars advance to semis after delay

Neither the Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood volleyball team nor a power outage could stop Northern Cass from earning its first state tournament victory Thursday.

The top-seeded Jaguars (31-6) didn’t seem affected by the big stage in their first appearance at state. Northern Cass captured the momentum early and carried it to a straight-set victory against the Mavericks in the first round of the Class B state tournament at the Minot State University Dome.

Northern Cass senior outside hitter Vanessa Johnson recorded a match-high 17 kills and senior outside hitter Paige Verwest and junior middle blocker Erin McDonald combined for 20 in a 25-18, 26-24, 25-17 victory. The Jaguars play Carrington tonight at 8 in the semifinals.

“For us, it starts with our defense,” Northern Cass coach Tom Klapp said. “If we can get the ball to our setter our offense is pretty potent.”

Klapp said his team was nervous, but the Jaguars hit it well, jumping out to 10-1 lead in the opening set. Johnson recorded six kills in the first game, keeping the Mavericks at arm’s distance. M-L-S (26-10) never got within five points in the first set after falling behind 6-1.

The Mavericks composed themselves in the second game and rattled off eight unanswered points for an early 10-6 advantage. The Jaguars responded to tie the set at 12 and again at 16 before the teams traded points the rest of the way. M-L-S fought off set point once before a kill by Northern Cass setter Brianna Olson ended the game. Olson dished out a match-high 41 assists.

“The real big difference was they played a lot more structured and we’re used to playing scrappy teams that will pick up a lot of weird stuff,” M-L-S coach Culynn Solloway said. “We just weren’t used to that style of play.”

The match took an unexpected turn in the third. With the Jaguars just seven points away from advancing to the semifinals in their first appearance at state, the MSU Dome went dark. Play was halted for an hour before power was restored.

“I give the girls a lot of credit for being able to hang in there and stay positive,” Klapp said. “The girls came back from it and played pretty good.”

Kills by senior middle blocker Alex Mott and senior outside hitter Sierra Smith brought the Mavericks within four, but Northern Cass was unfazed. The Jaguars scored five of the final six points to end the match.

Mott and junior outside hitter Callie Carlson finished with 11 kills each.

“We’ll come out fresh tomorrow with a good attitude the rest of the state tournament,” Solloway said. “We’re not disappointed. We came to the state tournament with the goal to play our best and so far the girls have done this.”

M-L-S plays Beulah today at 2 p.m. in a consolation match.