Three Takeaways from Day 2 of the 2021-22 Region 4 Volleyball Tournament

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

DEVILS LAKE – Just like that, we have a verdict for (#1) North Star vs. (#4) Benson County and (#2) Langdon/Edmore/Munich vs. (#3) New Rockford-Sheyenne. With the semifinals in the books, it now comes down to (#1) North Star and (#2) Langdon/Edmore/Munich to eliminate the other for the honor of moving on to the 2021 NDHSAA Class B Volleyball State Tournament. 

That, of course, is still in the future. So what did the present show us? After both matches proved to be thrillers, here are three takeaways from the second day of tournament action. 

1. Always be Closing

Alec Baldwin, Ben Affleck and any other Hollywood stockbroker agree with this statement, as will any volleyball team wishing not to go the entire match distance. Although neither match went a complete five sets, the victors in the Bearcats and the Cardinals quickly realized that their opponents would not go quietly. While both teams had a reputation for succeeding in the spotlight. Such was the case for the Wildcats, who took the match to four sets. For the Cardinals, it was even more pronounced. After dropping set two, 25-20, to New Rockford-Sheyenne, the Cardinals faced a potential set three loss after coming out of a timeout facing a 24-23 deficit. However, the Cardinals found enough life not only to close the set in their favor but go on to win the match, 3-1. 

Starting strong is important, but so is closing strong also. Both winning teams figured this out. 

2. Clog up the middle 

This statement was not strictly exclusive to the winning programs. With the likes of Danielle Hagler, Desidy Schwanke, Morgan Freije and Madisen Myhre, among others, there was plenty of firepower to go around, especially in terms of finding space in the middle of the court. As such, opposing defenses quickly adjusted to these threats by emphasizing closing off those gaps. As a result, these middle hitters had to put more emphasis on utilizing the perimeter. However, this created particular challenges as natural middle hitters had to now contend for space with their fellow outside hitters. 

Although each star hitter found enough space on the outside and inside to make their style work anyway, they realized that, from here on out, real estate is becoming thin. Finding more positioning all over the court will be critical should each hitter look to tally kill after kill.  

3. Do not forget your significant strength

Here is a quick Sports 101 tip - adjustments happen. Volleyball is no different, and while the previous point suggests that tweaks will be necessary, it does not mean that complete overhauls are required. 

“We did not do a lot of things,” Langdon/Edmore/Munich head coach Rich Olson said after his team beat Nelson County to open their tournament season. “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.” 

Regardless if it is a quarterfinal or semifinal match, each team must stick to what they do best. For the Wildcats, it was about talking through each pass. For the Rockets, it was about cleaning up the serve-receives. For the Bearcats, it was about feeding the ball to Hagler. And, last but not least, it was about executing when necessary for the Cardinals. Each strength gave each respective team an edge, and this will carry over this in the next match and beyond.