Three Takeaways from Day 1 of the 2021-22 Region 4 Tournament
DEVILS LAKE – Day No. 1 of the 2021-22 NDHSAA Region 4 Volleyball Tournament is officially in the books. Four teams remain, and ironically enough, the quartet represents the top-four teams heading into the tournament. Yes, (#1) North Star, (#2) Langdon/Edmore/Munich, (#3) New Rockford-Sheyenne and (#4) Benson County will now go toe-to-toe with each other in the semifinal. Get the popcorn ready. There will be plenty of it to go around.
With the bracket down to four teams, it is anyone’s guess as to what the semifinal matches will bring. But, even still, what led to those four teams getting to the next round? Here are three takeaways from the first day of region tournament action.
1. Come out of the gate strong
Outside of Benson County’s 26-24 loss against (#5) Harvey/Wells County in set one, each team not only won set one but won set one by a hefty margin. North and Langdon/Edmore/Munich each won their respective set ones, 25-8. Although New Rockford-Sheyenne won their set one with a little less room for error (25-19), they started the match by winning the first four points and six of the first eight.
Momentum is everything. This is especially the case in volleyball, where rallies inevitably build off each corresponding set. With the surplus of firepower from the middle and outside positions, each team needed to start their postseason with a bang. And that they certainly did.
2. Protect and serve
Although volleyball has proven to be a game of momentum, it has also proven itself to be a game of taking momentum away. This proved itself during the opening day of the Region 4 Tournament as teams capitalized on serving errors, communication woes and postseason shakes to stay within the hunt.
“We came out dead and jittery in the first set,” Benson County head coach Bridget Geller said after her team won, 3-1. “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.”
Although playing loose presents its fair share of challenges, playing tight brings risk, also. As each opening match illustrated, the name of the game was protecting the volleyball, executing on clean serves and playing with confidence. Expect this takeaway to translate into the semifinal matches.
3. Finesse = key
The star power at the middle-hitting position has been established. The outside hitting core has additionally shown its significance. Velocity in the spikes, however, was not as prominent as many might have initially postulated. Yes, the Danielle Hagler’s and Morgan Freije’s of the world collected their fair share of high-velocity kills. But an emphasis on the tip-in shots arguably held more precedent. After all, it was the high-volume usage of the tip-in shots that caught the opposing defense off-balance and inevitably led to the attacking team getting another point to their credit.
How each team matches up in terms of velocity will be interesting, but how frequently will they decide to go with the easy layup instead of the flashy downtown splash? The latter might make for a better crowd cheer, but the former might mean the difference between a couple of extra points and a handful of out-of-bound missiles.