Northern Cass to play for school’s first championship

It’s uncharted territory not just for the Northern Cass volleyball team, but the school itself.

The top-seeded Jaguars had never been in a championship match in any sport entering Friday’s contest with No. 4 seed Carrington.

Northern Cass rewrote its school history four sets later, advancing to its first Class B state-title match with a 25-10, 25-17, 17-25, 25-20 semifinal victory at the Minot State University Dome. The Jaguars play LaMoure tonight at 6. It’s the first state championship appearance for the Loboes as well.

“Obviously I’m pretty proud of the girls,” Northern Cass coach Tom Klapp said. “They’ve earned this. Our school in general has never been in a championship game. For our school, for our community, it’s pretty huge.”

After dropping their first set at state, the Jaguars (32-6) turned to their top hitter to reserve a spot in the championship. Senior outside hitter Vanessa Johnson recorded a match-high 23 kills nine in the fourth set as Northern Cass tallied seven of the final 10 points. Johnson also had three aces and 18 digs.

“We knew we needed to come out stronger than we did in the third set,” Johnson said. “I think we did what we needed to do. Our defense was awesome. It was just that we needed our offense to start clicking and it ended up clicking in the end.”

Senior libero Erica Hoggarth led the defensive effort for the Jaguars with 22 digs.

Northern Cass took the first two sets convincingly, but Carrington (30-8) adjusted in the third. The Cardinals trailed 11-10 before reeling off 11 unanswered points. Senior outside hitter Kayla Hochhalter registered three kills and two blocks during that span.

“It’s not the first time we’ve had a moment in a game where we give up some points,” Klapp said. “We do that from time to time. Carrington’s good enough where when you give them a chance they’re going to take advantage of it and they did.”

Hochhalter led the Cardinals with 12 kills and 19 digs.

The Jaguars jumped on the Cardinals in the first set, leading by as many as 13 points. Senior outside hitter Paige Verwest and junior middle blocker Erin McDonald each had 10 kills for Northern Cass. Johnson, Verwest and McDonald accounted for 43 of the Jaguars’ 51 kills.

“Northern Cass is a very good team,” Carrington coach Sharon Boehmer said. “We made adjustments and got up on them and they made adjustments as well and that’s the sign of a very good team. They have a lot of hitters from a lot of areas on the court. They made it happen. They swing hard and they swing often.”

Northern Cass and LaMoure are no strangers to one another. The teams split in pool play at the Valley City tournament and the Jaguars defeated the Loboes 2-1 in the Lisbon tournament championship.

Carrington plays Stanley in the third-place match today at 2 p.m.