Devils Lake concludes home campaign with 3-0 loss to Valley City
DEVILS LAKE – The Devils Lake Firebirds were looking to go out with a bang Tuesday evening.
Although the regular season had yet to conclude, their match against the Valley City Hi-Liners had significance to its name. For starters, it was Devils Lake’s final home match of the regular season. The importance of the match, however, went beyond what the regular-season schedule dictated. Nine Firebird seniors were honored one final time before the match.
And so, the team’s goal was set. The goal, you may ask?
To stay competitive.
While the team remained in the hunt from start to finish, the Firebirds faltered in three straight sets to the Hi-Liners on Oct. 26.
With the loss, the Firebirds (3-19, 2-12) finished the 2021-22 campaign with a 2-7 record at home. The Firebirds have been swept in each of their last three matches dating back to Oct. 12 (Grand Forks Red River).
“The girls have come so far,” Devils Lake head coach Megan Sylling said after the match. “We are still building confidence and making sure they believe in themselves. They have really grown as players and individuals. They are fantastic all the way through, and I expect nothing but the best from them all.”
To Sylling, the message was always about staying strong, even through adversity. This adversity showed itself as the Tri-Liners quickly leaped out to a six-point lead through the early portion of set one.
A 25-19 set one victory for the Tri-Liners was quickly countered with a 4-2 set two start for the Firebirds. After Valley City promptly established their outside and inside presence with Faith Peterson and Peyton Pederson, respectively, the Firebirds were forced to respond. Luckily for the latter, a combination of Rachel Dahlen, Torri Fee and Genna Fee crowded the front of the net. Dahlen led the team in kills (13), while Torri and Genna led the team in digs (20) and assists (12), respectively.
Although they went with more finesse as opposed to power, the Tri-Liners claimed the match victory through timely spikes and strong communication between the front and back row. The Tri-Liners won set two, 25-19, and set three, 25-18.
Nevertheless, Sylling recognized improvement when she saw it. After all, the Firebirds were unable to consistently match Shanley’s front row presence during the former’s 3-0 sweep on Oct. 19. Devils Lake's match against Valley City, meanwhile, saw a heightened level of confidence in blocks and counters against Peterson and Pederson.
“More block touches and confidence in knowing they could compete with Valley City,” Sylling said. “They are able to get those set-ups and feed Rachel Dahlen and continue to work as a team and develop.”
Despite the sweep, the Firebirds remained steadfast. Because of this, Sylling believes her team has learned what works and what does not. With this awareness, the Firebirds have built better character and have become a more team-oriented squad.
Sylling could not ask for more.
“They have learned what their strengths and weaknesses are as a team,” Sylling said. “They have become team players, and they all around have just become awesome people.”
The Firebirds will conclude their regular season with a two-game road swing before the 2021 NDHSAA Class A East Region Volleyball Tournament. Devils Lake will play Fargo Davies and Turtle Mountain on Oct. 28 and Nov. 1, respectively.