2021-22 Region 4 Volleyball Tournament Recap: Day 1

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

DEVILS LAKE – Eight teams. Four matches. Numerous goals still in need of achievement. Countless memories yet to be written. One winner when the dust settles in the end.  

The 2021-22 NDHSAA Region 4 Volleyball Tournament officially got underway on Nov. 8 at Devils Lake High School, and if the results from the first four matches of play are an indicator, volleyball fans are in for a treat for the action to come. Here is the result of each match. 

(#8) Dunseith (blue, foreground)) attempts to go for a kill against (#1) North Star (red, background).

(#1) North Star vs. (#8) Dunseith: 

Final score: 3-0 North Star

Set 1: 25-8

Set 2: 25-9

Set 3: 25-9

At a glance: 

The Bearcats were looking to start their potentially lengthy postseason campaign on a high note. Luckily for North Star, they went with the highest note on the musical scale (figuratively and probably literally) possible as they swept the Dragons in three straight sets.

Excluding tournament play, the Bearcats (22-0) remain undefeated on the season. Dating back to the 2018-19 season, the Bearcats have won all seven matches against the Dragons (excluding tournament play). All seven matches have additionally been a sweep. With the loss, the Dragons have been eliminated from the Region 4 Tournament.

“I think we came out and made a statement,” North Star head coach Aubree Page said after the match. “That is what we wanted to do. We wanted to come out strong and dominate, and I think we did that well.” 

North Star middle hitter Danielle Hagler set the tone early as the senior compiled three of North Star’s first four kills during set one. North Star’s ability to control the middle of the court and find enough accuracy on the perimeter shots allowed them to control the match from start to finish. 

As it turned out, this was all North Star needed to create enough tempo and generate enough velocity to give them the opening-round win. 

Senior outside hitter Ashlyn Williams (#8, behind net) of Benson County prepares her team for the upcoming serve.

(#4) Benson County vs. (#5) Harvey/Wells County: 

Final score: 3-1 Benson County

Set 1: 26-24 Harvey/Wells County

Set 2: 25-22 Benson County

Set 3: 25-18 Benson County

Set 4: 25-18 Benson County 

At a glance: 

A 26-24 set one win in favor of the Hornets emphasized how much of a coin-flip this match was to casuals and pundits alike. However, Benson County prevailed to win three straight sets and pick up their first region-opening win since Nov. 11, 2019, against New-Rockford Sheyenne (Benson County’s region-opening win against Rolla on Nov. 10, 2020, was via forfeit).

Benson County’s avenue to success did not come in the form of the fastball but a soft-serving changeup.

Spearheaded by senior middle hitter Desidy Schwanke and junior middle hitter Jaylen Anderson, the Wildcats utilized more tip-in shots to generate kills. When they combined this adjustment with enhanced poise, the Wildcats took off. 

“We came out dead and jittery in the first set,” Benson County head coach Bridget Geller said after the match. “I told them, you have to come in and relax. Some of you are seniors, and I do not think you want this to be your last match. Settle in.” 

Benson County’s adjustment did not end on the offensive side. The Wildcats clogged up the middle portion of the net to wear Harvey/Wells County’s front row on the defensive side.

These block-touches proved to be a difference-maker.

“They were huge,” Geller said. “We have been working on that all week. Different scenarios I have been putting up against the girls. Just get a touch, get a hand on it, slow the ball down, and we will be successful. Those girls stepped up tonight. Jaylen Anderson had a heck of a game, and it was probably the best game she had all year. She was up on the net blocking and hitting well. She stepped up when she needed to step up. Ashlyn had some crucial blocks. Desidy (Schwanke) had a little bit of jitters to begin with, and once she settled in too, she played well. It was a good team effort.” 

(#2) Langdon/Edmore/Munich vs. (#7) Nelson County:  

Final score: 3-0 Langdon/Edmore/Munich 

Set 1: 25-8 

Set 2: 25-12 

Set 3: 25-17 

At a glance: 

Heading into the Region 4 Tournament, the (#2) Langdon/Edmore/Munich Cardinals had a reputation they needed to uphold. This reputation, of course, revolved around the team’s success in previous Region 4 Tournaments. Dating back to the 2015-16 season, the Cardinals have won each of the last six tournaments. The last time the Cardinals lost during the tournament’s opening round was Nov. 11, 2013 (3-2 vs. Carrington). 

While an upset was almost certainly a possibility, the Cardinals quelled any thought of it with their convincing 3-0 match win against (#7) Nelson County. With the win, the Cardinals are now 3-0 against Nelson County since Lakota and Dakota Prairie merged before the 2020-21 season. 

(#2) Langdon/Edmore/Munich prepares to spike it from the perimeter against (#7) Nelson County.

Although the Cardinals were on the wrong end of a two-match losing streak dating back to Oct. 28 (3-0 loss vs. Northern Cass), the team recognized its strength in the passing and striking department. The balanced philosophy on both sides of the ball inevitably gave the Cardinals enough cushion to lean on the Chargers after a convincing 25-8 set one win. 

Heading into the contest, the Cardinals kept it basic - they played their style of play with confidence. 

“We did not do a lot of things,” Langdon/Edmore/Munich head coach Rich Olson said after the match. “We just looked at the film and saw we needed to play better. We needed to serve and pass better, and we made better decisions. We did not go out there and reinvent the wheel or anything or make any major adjustments because that would have been overreacting. We went out tonight and played confident volleyball, and that is what you have to do.” 

Sophomore outside hitter Kelsie Belquist (#1, blue) goes for the kill against (#6) Rolla.

(#3) New Rockford-Sheyenne vs. (#6) Rolla: 

Final score: 3-1 New Rockford-Sheyenne 

Set 1: 25-19 New Rockford-Sheyenne 

Set 2: 25-18 New Rockford-Sheyenne 

Set 3: 25-21 Rolla 

Set 4: 25-13 New Rockford-Sheyenne 

At a glance: 

New Rockford-Sheyenne certainly knew how to start a match on the right foot. The Rockets’ x-factor, however, has been on the closing side of the coin. This revealed itself once again Monday evening as the sixth-seeded Bulldogs won each of the last four points during a back-and-forth set three to keep their playoff hopes alive. 

New Rockford-Sheyenne, however, decided to go back to their roots. 

These roots, of course, referred to Kelsie Belquist and Mya Cudworth, who collectively established New Rockford-Sheyenne’s scoring presence on the outside portion of the net. 

“We gained momentum,” New Rockford-Sheyenne head coach Sara Myhre said after the match. “I think their confidence was there. In the second set, you could see their confidence going down a little bit with the errors, but we picked it back up and regained confidence and momentum, and I think that really helped.” 

The Rockets have won each of their last five opening-round matches in the Region 4 Tournament dating back to the 2017-18 season.