(#4) Benson County outlasts (#3) New Rockford-Sheyenne for third-place finish

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

DEVILS LAKE – The (#3) New Rockford-Sheyenne Rockets and (#4) Benson County Wildcats played for more than a third-place finish in the 2021 NDHSAA Class B - Region 4 Volleyball Tournament in Devils Lake Thursday evening. 

They were additionally playing for one final hurrah. 

Seven senior Wildcats were hungry for one more satisfying meal in the taste of victory. Meanwhile, six senior Rockets were eager to find one final puff of steam to launch them to a season finale win. 

(#4) Benson County cheers after picking up a point against (#3) New Rockford-Sheyenne.

Two opposing forces with the same goal in mind meant something had to give. But, in the end, enough energy from the Wildcats eventually netted them the 3-1 third-place region win on Nov. 11. 

With the win, the Wildcats (17-7-4) finish the Region 4 Tournament in third place. It is Benson County’s first region tournament with at least two wins since the 2019-20 season, where they also finished third. Benson County’s win also snaps a two-match head-to-head losing streak against New Rockford-Sheyenne (25-10), dating to Oct. 30, 2020. 

Ironically enough, Benson County’s two-win tournament run during the 2019-20 season started with a 3-0 win against the Rockets approximately two years to the day (Nov. 11, 2019). Whether it be sheer coincidence or otherwise, the team’s postseason success against the Rockets translated through the opening portion of the match Thursday evening. A 25-19 set one win in favor of the Wildcats came to be after the Rockets could not counteract with enough consistency on the serving end. 

“We wanted it more tonight than anything else,” Benson County head coach Bridget Geller said after the match. “Those senior girls came out with a chip on their shoulder and said, this it. This is the final game of our careers, and we want to go out with no regrets, and they did. They played a heck of a game tonight. We had a little bit of a lull at times, but overall, they came out, did what they needed to do and wanted to end their career with a win. That is what we do. We had no regrets. Everybody was on the floor tonight, making things we had not done all year. I am really proud of them.” 

A balanced offensive attack on Benson County’s side of the court did not solely go through senior middle hitter Desidy Schwanke. Instead, a rotation consisting of eighth grade outside hitter Aubrey Kenner and junior middle hitter Jaylen Anderson generated enough of an inside and outside presence to take the eyes off of Schwanke. 

Senior middle hitter Desidy Schwanke (jumping) goes for the spike against (#3) New Rockford-Sheyenne.

While New Rockford-Sheyenne equalized the match with a dominating 25-14 set two win, the Wildcats spaced out their passing attempts in a way that helped gradually whittle down the Rockets via a 25-17 victory in set three. 

A 2-1 lead, however, was not something Benson County was satisfactory with accepting. After all, the Wildcats held a similar 2-1 lead on Sep. 28, 2021. The Rockets, however, propelled past the Wildcats to win that match, 3-2. 

“That regular-season loss was really heartfelt because it took away our third-place seeding,” senior middle hitter Desidy Schwanke said. “In this match, we just kept our cool and kept swinging. Our head coach always preached, keep swinging hard.” 

As the Wildcats continued to swing for the fences, the Rockets had tricks of their own. The Rockets utilized a combined attack from sophomore outside hitter Kelsie Belquist, senior outside hitter Mya Cudworth and junior middle hitter Madisen Myhre to tie the scoreboard, 22-22. 

Even still, the Wildcats found just enough of a jolt to close out what they could not back in September. Once the final spike fell, Benson County came out of the smoke with a 25-23 set three win and 3-1 victory. 

“The girls just did not have the energy tonight,” New Rockford-Sheyenne head coach Sara Myhre said after the match. “They did not have the energy they had the other night. There are a lot of factors that play in, and it was an emotional night on Tuesday night, going four sets and a lot of emotions there. Knowing that, for our six seniors, their last game. It was tough getting them fired up.” 

While the outcome was not what they intended, it was not entirely bleak for the Rockets. Instead, there was a renewed sense of optimism moving forward into the next season and beyond. 

“I think it is a tone set for the younger girls, as far as what we are capable of doing,” Myhre said. Our setter [Kaiya O’Connor] is a ninth-grader. We have Madisen Myhre coming back as a senior. Ava Peterson, an eighth-grader. Our outside, Kelsie [Belquist]. There is a lot of stuff to build off, but I think they set the tone for the upcoming players of how we played during regionals.” 

In terms of optimism, the same could be said for the Wildcats ten-fold. 

Geller believes the successful year can become a building block for future seasons with year No. 1 of Wildcat head coaching duties in the books. 

Because of this, one final hurrah potentially becomes a vibrant crescendo for things to come. 

“It was amazing,” Geller said. “I am so proud of these girls. They have come a long way, and they made my job a lot easier than expected. I am going to miss those senior girls a ton next year, and it has been amazing. I could not have asked for a better group of girls to have for my first year.”