on Thursday, five years to the day they last won a set over Carrington, the Rockets were able to reach the 25 point mark once against the Cardinals for the first time in half a decade. While New Rockford-Sheyenne (2-3, 0-0 Region 4) did fall to Carrington (4-2, 1-0 Region 3) 3-1 (19-25, 21-25, 25-18, 16-25), the Rockets edged out the Cardinals in set three to avoid the sweep for the first time in what feels like forever.
Since 2015, every showdown between the Rockets and the Cardinals can be summed up by an Aerosmith song.
"It's the same old story, same old song, and dance, my friend"
2015 was the last time the Rockets had won a set over the Cardinals, coming in a 3-1 loss to Carrington on Sept. 17, 2015. From then on, New Rockford-Sheyenne has been swept clean by the Cardinals in every meeting.
On Thursday, five years to the day they last won a set over Carrington, the Rockets were able to reach the 25 point mark once against the Cardinals for the first time in half a decade. While New Rockford-Sheyenne (2-3, 0-0 Region 4) did fall to Carrington (4-2, 1-0 Region 3) 3-1 (19-25, 21-25, 25-18, 16-25), the Rockets edged out the Cardinals in set three to avoid the sweep for the first time in what feels like forever.
"I thought we did well against Carrington," Rockets head coach Sara Myhre said. "Carrington is always a really tough team, so we kept up pace with them very well."
Heading into set three, the Rockets saw themselves down 2-0 and fighting to avoid another sweep from the Cardinals. New Rockford-Sheyenne did see themselves go up 17-13 midway through the second set but would get outscored 13-4 out of a Carrington timeout and drop the set.
"We just couldn't get our passes in and our kills," Myhre said. "There were just too many errors on our part. It was a good match overall. I think if we had a couple more games under our belt, it would've been more of a competition."
The Rockets came into set three with energy and intensity as they would outscore Carrington, 10-4, forcing a Cardinals time out. New Rockford-Sheyenne saw early production on the front line from senior middle hitter Kayahna Hopfauf and senior outside hitter Chloe Heinz. The duo traded off kills and blocks throughout the set, seeing Heinz at one point knocking down four straight points in the third set.
Carrington found management of its momentum from timeout to timeout as the Cardinals would go on a handful of runs throughout the game out of timeouts. However, in the third set, the Rockets held off the Cardinals surge back into the game. After Carrington was able to pull within seven of the lead, 24-17, Heinz would slam down her seventh kill of the set, handing the Rockets the win, 25-18.
The duo would lead the the charge for the Rockets as Heinz would pick up a team high 14 kills and five aces, along with 17 digs, and Hopfauf would finish with 12 kills, seven blocks and five digs.
"They're [Heinz and Hopfauf] are huge for us on the front line," Myhre said. "Kayahna averages 20 to 25 kills and Chloe was on tonight. She hasn't been feeling good the past couple of weeks. They were both on. They are our number one and number two hitters for sure."
On the defensive end, New Rockford-Sheyenne saw a lot of help from senior setter Dani Bjerke, who aided the transition game with 40 assists, and senior libero Cassie Longnecker, who led the team in digs with 26.
Coming back into the game in that third set, Myhre said she felt new energy from her team. As the Rockets took the court, the offensive plays that we're struggling to connect in the prior sets were clicking and New Rockford-Sheyenne was knocking down points left and right.
"Everybody was just on," Myhre said. "Our passes were getting to the setter and our energy was just amazing out there. We came back, and you could just feel the change in energy. The girls were having fun out there and were excited. Our hitters were just on."
The Rockets looked to roll off of the set three win going into set four, however, they quickly fell from cloud nine. Carrington would jump out to a 11-5 lead, with the Rockets on their heels. New Rockford-Sheyenne found a way to play into the Cardinals' mistakes as they would outscore Carrington 7-4, with four of the last three points to pull the Rockets within one came off of errors.
New Rockford-Sheyenne once again had the Cardinals right where they wanted them, but Carrington once again played into its own built momentum out of a timeout. The Cardinals would go on a 9-2 run to close out the set and the game, ending any hope of a Rocket comeback.
"We couldn't get to our spots on time in that fourth set," Myhre said. "Number one was we were slow on transition and second was our passes just weren't good. We just lost it in that one."
While the comeback did fall short, the Rockets aren't hanging their head after the loss, in fact they're taking more positives away from Thursday night's finish. After facing a team they couldn't win even a set against for so many years, Myhre believes that the third set victory, against a rival club, is a big confidence booster for her squad.
"We haven't had that many games yet, and we had a week where we didn't have practice due to COVID, so I think we had a good run at it," Myhre said. "It'd be interesting to play them again later on."
New Rockford-Sheyenne is looking for role off of that same confidence and take that into its training head deeper into its schedule. Rockets have been challenged early facing No. 1 Thompson in their first game of the season and now Carrington, which is allowing them to grow their depth.
"We have some more work to do, so were going to get back in the gym, practice and work on our transition," Myhre said. "I think this game was a confidence booster for our kids. I don't remember the last time we beat them in a set. I think as far as their confidence, they were feeling it tonight knowing with more hard work and practice, we can beat these teams."
Thursday night will go down in the statbook as a loss for New Rockford-Sheyenne, but they aren't treating it as that. The Rockets faced of against Carrington like they hadn't done in years, and with a upperclassmen heavy team that has shown growth early on, there's excitement for New Rockford-Sheyenne heading into regional play.
"I don't think it's a really big loss for us just because of the way I've seen the girls play as a team," Myhre said. "Usually when Carrington shows up, for whatever reason, it's a rival and we get nervous and I didn't see that tonight. They were ready. We just need to clean up a couple things, but we have a great team this year."
Contact Jack Williams with any comments at JGWilliams1@gannett.com or on Twitter @jackgwilliams.