OAKES, N.D. – There will be a new North Dakota state volleyball champion in Class B this fall.
Fargo Oak Grove won a five-set thriller 21-25, 14-25, 25-16, 25-21, 17-15 over defending state champion Central Cass on Tuesday during the Region 1 semifinals at Oakes High School.
The Grovers not only rallied from a 2-0 set deficit, but also survived three separate match-point attempts by the Squirrels late in the fifth set.
“We are feeling pretty good right now,” Oak Grove head coach Denny Stinar said. “It is a huge win against a great team. They are the defending state champions for a reason. We didn’t quit. I told the girls it is one point at a time, one set at a time.”
The victory sends the Grovers (31-6) to the championship match against Kindred on Thursday set to begin 25 minutes following the 6 p.m. third-place match in Oakes.
Oak Grove’s chip-away approach eventually placed junior setter Symone Jacobs at the service line for a match-point attempt.
“I was thinking, ‘I make this all day in practice. There is pressure, but I can do it. It is easy, just get it over,’” Jacobs said.
So with the Grovers up 16-15, Jacobs lofted an ace serve that Central Cass’ back row couldn’t handle.
That set off a load roar from the Grovers, who had lost a 3-0 decision to Central Cass earlier in the season.
“I cried,” Jacobs said. “It was amazing.”
The Squirrels committed an error that broke a 15-15 tie, which set up the Grovers’ match-point try. That was also the first time Oak Grove led in the fifth set.
“We just didn’t finish,” Central Cass head coach Bridget Stowers said. “We had opportunities, but we did not take advantage of them. When you don’t, that is what happens.”
Errors plagued Central Cass in the final three sets, but especially in the fifth.
The miscues allowed the Grovers to hang close.
“It was a team effort,” Stinar said. “We got most of our points off their errors in the fifth set. We didn’t have to earn many. The pressure got on them a little bit. They were the one that folded and we didn’t.”
Hannah Kelley paced Oak Grove with 15 kills and three blocks.
“We just wanted to dig in and we dug in,” Kelley said. “We gave it all we had. We didn’t want this to be our last match.”
Kirsten Bokinskie added 10 kills and a block for the Grovers.
Central Cass (36-6-1) will play in Thursday’s third-place match. Faith Dooley had 17 kills and six blocks for the Squirrels.
Central Cass had won the last two Region 1 championships.
Kills: OG, Kelley 15, Kounovky 6, Bokinskie 10; CC, Dooley 17, Breske 7, Romsdal 12.
Assists: OG, Bokinskie 26, Jacobs 13; CC, none available.
Digs: OG, Lang 13, Zaeske 8, Bokinskie 8; CC, none available.
Aces: OG Bokinskie 4, Lang 2, VandeVoort 3; CC, none available.
Blocks: OG, Bokinskie 1, Kelley 3; CC, Breske 4, Dooley 6.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562