Three tips: what (#3) Langdon/Edmore/Munich must do to win the Class B State Tournament

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

LANGDON – The Langdon/Edmore/Munich Cardinals find themselves on the all too familiar stage. This stage, of course, is synonymous with a volleyball court. In particular, a volleyball court in Bismarck. And to be even more specific, a volleyball court in Bismarck to determine who will become state champion. 

As victors of the 2021 NDHSAA Class B – Region 4 Volleyball Tournament, the third-seeded Cardinals will trek to the Bismarck Event Center to participate in the 2021 NDHSAA Class B Volleyball State Tournament on Nov. 18-20. 

No one said it would be easy, however, and while the Cardinals will play in their seventh-consecutive state tournament, the three-day tournament will be tricky. Should they wish to secure their second state championship in three seasons (2019-20) and their fifth title overall, the Cardinals will need to rely on a combination of talent, grit and depth. 

Once the volleys start firing, it is anyone’s guess how the tournament will play out. Here are three things to watch on the Cardinal side of the tournament bracket. 

1. Freije, Thielbar and Schneider Power Co. 

It is a saying as old as time (at least in the sports sense, anyway): lean on your stars. The Cardinals certainly did as such during the Region 4 Volleyball Tournament at Devils Lake last week. The team’s three-headed scoring machine in Morgan Freije, Morgan Thielbar and McKenna Schneider collectively produced the bulk of the offensive output. All players averaged 20+ total attempts per match during the tournament (Freije with 45, Schneider with 26 and Thielbar with 21). 

The trio did not solely make their presence known from their volume usage – they also capitalized on this volume. During the three-day contest, Freije averaged 19 kills (45 attempts) and a .307 Kill/Hitting Efficiency, while Thielbar averaged eight kills (21 attempts) and put together a .309 Kill/Hitting Efficiency. Although Schneider lagged behind the other two in the Kill/Hitting Efficiency department (.115), she still averaged five kills per match and established enough of a presence to keep opposing defenses guessing. 

The loss of Cora Badding to an injury earlier in the season stung. Even still, the Cardinals are not entirely lost in the woods. As long as all three players continue to carry the brunt of the offensive production, that is. The question will not be how efficient the trio is, but who is the most efficient of the three. Keep your eyes peeled. 

2. Good defense = good offense 

13 might be an unlucky number to some, but it was just what the doctor ordered for the Cardinals. This signified the total number of block solos (BS) the team compiled throughout the Region 4 Tournament. Langdon/Edmore/Munich has totaled 122 block solos for the entire 2021-22 season up to this point. This averages out to 1.2 block solos per game. When you add this to the team’s 4.0 Blocking Percentage (B%), you get the basic gist - while this might not be a team emphasis, it still shows enough of a presence to matter come crunch time. 

Of course, the 2019-20 season was a championship one for a reason. After all, the Cardinals averaged 2.4 block solos per game and totaled 199 block solos for a collective 9.2 B%. 

Now, the sample size difference is worth noting – Langdon/Edmore/Munich’s 2019-20 blocking numbers were in 25 matches instead of the team’s 38 matches this season. Although a COVID-19 season (not to mention different personnel) limits the comparison, the logic remains strong enough to state the obvious. A presence up front, coupled with a pinch of court awareness, will give the Cardinals that much more of an edge against the firepower inbound from the opponent during the state tournament. It worked last time. Why not again? 

3. The Art of the Serve-Receive 

A lackadaisical serve-receive performance during the team’s Nov. 1 matchup against the North Star Bearcats acted as a punch in the gut. Instead of solely relying on talent to get the job done, the Cardinals adjusted and decided to clean up that part of their game. Out of 61 total serve-receive attempts during the Region 4 Championship against the Bearcats, the Cardinals only came up with three errors. 

“Since then, that is what we really worked on in practice,” senior middle hitter Morgan Freije said after the Region 4 Tournament Championship on Nov. 11. “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.”

Keeping it clean is not the only x-factor. Keeping it crisp might hold even more importance. Should the Cardinals wish to keep momentum on their side, they will need to minimize the miscues. Spoiler alert? Perhaps. But it needed to be said.