(#2) Langdon/Edmore/Munich sweeps (#1) North Star, heads to Class B State Tournament

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

DEVILS LAKE – A packed house was not the only thing warming up the Devils Lake Sports Center Thursday evening. So was the electricity, and no, this did not pertain to the lights. 

Instead, it came from the head-to-head matchup between the (#1) North Star Bearcats and (#2) Langdon/Edmore Munich Cardinals in the championship bout of the 2021 NDHSAA B Volleyball – Region 4 Volleyball Tournament. 

From Langdon/Edmore/Munich’s perspective, the match had meaning in two particular ways. The first way was simple - the team wanted to rebound from their 3-1 home defeat against the Bearcats on Nov. 1. However, it was the second reason that heightened the stakes. Dating back to the 2015-16 season, the Cardinals were a spotless 6-0 in Region 4 Tournament Championship Finals. North Star’s main drive during the 2021 region contest related to this point. After all, the Bearcats were the losing recipients in all six of those region tournament finals against Langdon/Edmore/Munich. 

North Star vs. L/E/M 11/11/21

Both teams had the drive, and both teams certainly had the talent. However, crisp execution from Langdon/Edmore/Munich’s (22-3-2) side of the court proved to be the difference as the Cardinals went on to sweep North Star (23-1), 3-0, on Nov. 11. 

Langdon/Edmore/Munich head coach Rich Olson shooting out of his chair after the killing set three blow highlighted the obvious – he was proud of his team. 

“These girls have been together,” Olson said after the match. “They have shown so much character, fight and teamwork. We went through the injury to Cora [Badding], which was devastating to our team, and they never wavered one bit. They stuck together as a team and said we are still going to be good. We are still going to go out and have the best team we can. We can still get this region and still get it. I knew right from day one in practice that this group was special, and they could make a run at a regional championship.” 

During their Nov. 1 matchup against the Bearcats, a lack of execution was almost alien during their Thursday rematch. A quick 4-0 sprint out of the set one gate was only emphasized more and more through the utilization of high velocity serves, crisp passes and thorough kill placements. 

A 25-16 win in set one for the Cardinals was only a tune-up. While senior setter/middle hitter Morgan Freije continued to knock down kills on both ends of the line, a sturdy defensive presence highlighted by McKenna Schneider helped prevent North Star middle hitter Danielle Hagler from turning the tide. 

“She had 38 [kills] against us last time,” Olson said. “We knew we could not let her do that again. We knew we had to make some adjustments and some girls had to step up and make some digs on her. You do not have to make a perfect pass when someone is blasting the ball at you. You just need to get the ball up in the middle of the court somewhere and counterattack…I think we made some adjustments from last time and the girls believed in what they could do. They were frustrated last time because there were too many unforced errors. We did not serve like we normally served. They made a lot of plays on us in Langdon that made the difference in that match. We knew we could turn the tables if we corrected a few things, and that is what we did.” 

To Freije, Langdon/Edmore/Munich’s loss to North Star on Nov. 1 sparked a fire. This fire started in practice and only festered into something better. This continued through a dominant 25-18 set two win in favor of the Cardinals. 

Senior middle hitter Morgan Freije (#7, black) jumps for the ball against (#1) North Star (red).

“We really came to play the first time we played them as we did now, but back in November, we just made too many errors that were not in our character, and we knew that,” senior middle hitter Morgan Freije said. “Since then, that is what we really worked on in practice. We did serve-receive every day to make sure we were ready for any kind of serve they threw at us. We watched enough film to know where we had to attack them and when. It was open for everybody, and that is what we went out and did and executed it.” 

From the perspective of the Bearcats, it was not about the talent on the court but in the intangibles surrounding each player’s mentality on it. While these intangibles remained strong through a closely contested 28-26 mark in set three, it was not enough to move the needle in their favor. The Bearcats have now lost seven straight Region 4 Tournament Championship Finals to the Cardinals with the loss. Four of those seven championships have been a sweep. 

“When it comes to this every year, it is intimidation, and I do not even know why because we should have had the feeling we could do this and not come out with those feelings again, but we did it again, and it is frustrating,” North Star head coach Aubree Page said after the match. “I am frustrated right now.” 

As the Cardinals move on to Bismarck to participate in the 2021 NDHSAA Class B Volleyball State Tournament, the message remains the same – execute. 

To Olson, this message, in addition to his team’s experience up and down the lineup, will give them a shot to take home their second state title in three years (2019-20). 

“Some of these girls have played in a state tournament,” Olson said. “For some of these girls, it is the first time on varsity. Some of these girls were there last year on the bench, so it will be a great experience for them. We are going to go out there and give it everything we got in Bismarck.” 

The 2021 NDHSAA Class B Volleyball Tournament will officially get underway on Nov. 18 at 1:00 p.m. CT. The bracket release will be announced on Nov. 12 following the NDHSAA 9B Football State Championship.