Defending champs back in title match

Century has it figured out.

The Patriots know when to peak – and clearly how to sweep, as well.

With a 25-19, 25-19, 25-19 victory over West Region No. 1 seed St. Mary’s on Friday night at the Minot State University Dome, defending champion Century posted its third straight 3-0 win. This one returned it to the Class A state championship for a third straight year.

“It has been a long journey,” Century co-coach Jamie Zastoupil said. “We’re so young that we’ve had a lot of emotions along the way. The blood, the sweat, the tears they’ve worked hard.”

The Patriots (31-7) – which boast seven juniors, five underclassmen and only two seniors – put out a veteran performance against a St. Mary’s squad that includes 11 seniors.

“For being a young team, we’re very skilled,” said junior outside hitter Katie Scherr, who tied a match high with 10 kills. “We have all the talent we need. We just pulled through and played together.”

Century, the West Region No. 3 seed, meets Jamestown at 8 tonight with a title on the line. The Patriots – also state champs in 1984 and 2008 – are 3-7 in championship matches.

The Blue Jays knocked off Century 3-2 and 3-0 in two meetings this year.

“Jamestown’s a great team,” Zastoupil said. “They’re great defensively. They’re a tough one.”

St. Mary’s (24-10) faces the East Region’s top seed, Shanley, in a 2 p.m third-place match.

Century claimed early leads in all three sets against the Saints with the outcome never in doubt.

Zastoupil said it was much different than in the Patriots’ most recent matchups with St. Mary’s – 3-2 and 3-1 defeats – where they struggled early on.

“Volleyball’s a game of momentum and to get that momentum and get it right off the bat…,” she said. “We went in and we told them, ‘We’ve gotta get the first set, we’ve gotta get the momentum,” because that’s where we’ve struggled with St. Mary’s – the first set, the first two sets.”

St. Mary’s senior outside hitter Mary Roller, a key cog for the Saints, suffered a right ankle injury and never returned.

Senior Katelyn Schaffner carried the Saints with 10 kills and 16 digs for the lone double-double of the match.

Despite the brevity of the sweep and an extreme lack of lead changes, Scherr said beating St. Mary’s – the only team to upend Jamestown since Sept. 7 – was a big-time win. It ended the Saints’ nine-match winning streak.

“I think it was an upset because they came in confident,” she said. “But we came in more confident.”