Deacons handle Firebirds in straight sets

Ray Maloney, Sports
Devils Lake’s Autumn Wang (34) and Taylor Wade (2) go high to attempt a block of a return by Shanley’s Bethany Sandy during Thursday’s match at the Devils Lake Sports Center. Sandy and the Deacons swept by the Firebirds in straight sets to remain atop the Eastern Dakota Conference standings.

For the second time in as many outings Devils Lake squared off with one of the top teams in North Dakota. The result was all too familiar as the Firebirds dropped a decision to Fargo Shanley in straight sets as the Deacons, the No. 1 team in the Eastern Dakota Conference, swept past the Firebirds on Thursday at the Devils Lake Sports Center.

Fargo Shanley won 25-7, 25-11, 25-7.

“We have a lot more offensive weapons that we’ve had in the past,” Shanley coach Wendy Zeiher said. “We also had a lot of 5-7, 5-8 players in recent years, but a little height always helps.”

It sure did against the Firebirds.

Hillary Rotunda, a six-foot senior, led the way for the Deacons with 15 kills on the night, while Kaitlyn Carlson, a 5-9 senior, added 10 kills on the night.

That tandem posed problems for the Firebirds all night at the net as Devils Lake was never able to get a handle on its defense to counter Rotunda and Carlson as the Firebirds managed just eight blocks in the three sets.

Devils Lake hung close in the early going of the opening set.

Carlson took care of that. She reeled off eight straight points to give the Deacons a 10-2 advantage before Devils Lake forced a sideout that was short-lived.

Kelsey Kanwischer added to the Shanley lead by adding seven straight points of her own and the Deacons found themselves in command 18-3.

Following Tuesday’s similar setback to West Fargo in straight sets Devils Lake coach Julie Faul implemented wholesale changes with her offense in preparation for Thursday’s match.

“Like with any time you make the kind of changes we made, things are going to get worse before they get better,” said Faul, whose team dropped to 5-9 on the season with the loss to the Deacons.

“But, I know we have the talent to put things together and still have a very successful season.

Taylor Wade led Devils Lake with four kills. Mackenzie Wade and Haley Prozinski finished with three and two kills, respectively.

Senior Shelby Turck led the way for Devils Lake with three blocks, while Autumn Wang topped the team charts with eight assists and three digs on the night.

Devils Lake returns to action on Sept. 21 when the Firebirds entertain defending state champion Grand Forks Red River at the Sports Center.  That will mark the midway point of the season as Devils Lake will have just three home matches remaining after squaring off with the Roughriders.

Home matches remaining include Grand Forks Central (Sept. 28), Wahpeton (Oct. 29) and Fargo Davies (Nov. 2).

Fargo Shanley    25   25   25

Devils Lake       7    11    7

Fargo Shanley Leaders

Kills – Hillary Rotunda 15, Kaitlyn Carlson 10. Blocks – Rotunda 2, Carlson 1. Assists – Ashley Vetter 26. Aces – Carlson 5, Rotunda 4. Digs – Hannah Saville 7.

Devils Lake Leaders

Kills – Taylor Wade 4, Mackenzie Wade 3, Haley Prozinski 2, Steph Mertens 1. Blocks – Shelby Turck 3, T. Wade 2, Mertens 2, Prozinski 1. Assists – Autumn Wang 8. Aces – Krissy Larson 1, Wang 1. Digs – Wang 3, Mertens 3, M. Wade 2, Larson 2.