Bearcats maintain weekend momentum to sweep Chargers in three
CANDO – The North Star Bearcats certainly had momentum on their side going into Tuesday’s matchup against Nelson County. Not only did the Bearcats sweep all six matches and come out victorious in the Devils Lake Tournament over the weekend, but Danielle Hagler, their senior middle hitter, additionally compiled her 2,000th-career kill during the tournament.
This momentum, coupled with timely aces and pristine communication, helped the Bearcats sweep the Chargers on Sep. 28.
With the win, the Bearcats are now 8-0 in all eight of their matches this season, excluding tournament play. Dating back to Sep. 23, the Bearcats have won 18 of their last 19 sets (their one loss came on Sep. 23 at home against Rolla).
“We are communicating very well,” Hagler said after the win. “Our energy is high. We are just having a lot of fun, and that is the most important thing. We are having fun winning as a team, and we are never giving up. Even in the one set we lost against Rolla, we never gave up and came to beat them. We are just never giving up and are fighting the whole time.”
Although they were without one of their starters in middle blocker Elle Nicholas, the Bearcats found their positioning and rattled off nine straight rally wins midway through set one. They then finished off Nelson County with two consecutive aces from senior setter Lindsey Nyhagen. Nyhagen finished the match with a team-high six aces.
Nyhagen’s role, however, went offensive performance. After all, Nyhagen tallied 29 assists during the match. To Nyhagen, her role is to capitalize on the scoring chances and be the table-setter for her players.
“A lot of people compare my role to the quarterback of a football team,” Nyhagen said. “It is very important. Danielle always tells me that I need to be careful and not get hurt because my team really needs me.”
A dominant 25-12 set one win continued into sets two and three, where the Bearcats won 25-11 and 25-12, respectively. The ability to generate enough velocity on the aces, coupled with the communication, helped give the Bearcats a significant edge over their Charger counterparts. Halfway through set two, a botched Bearcat pass rattled off of the basketball hoop perched overhead. The Bearcats, however, were able to read the bounce and still send the pass over the net to collect the kill.
“I feel like we are just working well as a team,” North Star head coach Aubree Page said after the match. “We practice how we play, and the girls focus on every little detail in practice and bring it over to the game…there is just a lot of stuff we work on. We do not like to let up in practice, so that we bring it to the game, whether it be getting to the end line to make sure you can call it is out and not just hoping it is out. Things like that. Simple things.”
Hagler, who received the game ball before the match to commemorate her 2,000th kill, believes the team’s success has been driven by the ability to play loose and be flexible. Hagler finished the match with 18 kills.
“Everyone is really willing to step in and know what we have to do,” Hagler said. “Everyone is willing to take their role, and everyone is ready. Everyone has a positive attitude no matter where we are playing, even if it is a new position for someone. They just take their role and do it with a positive attitude.”
Page believes her team has what it takes to continue to deal damage during the stretch run. Even still, Page believes the energy level must remain high from start to finish, regardless of who her team faces.
Should the Bearcats continue to play every match like a playoff tournament, Page believes the sky is the limit.
In Nyhagen’s mind, the goal has never changed.
“Every set, and every point, we have one goal,” Nyhagen said. “That is to go to state.”
The Bearcats will take to the road to face off against St. John on Oct. 5. The Chargers, meanwhile, will host Dunseith on Sep. 30.