Thompson sweeps (#3) Langdon/Edmore/Munich to open Class B State Tournament

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

BISMARCK – This wasn’t Kansas, but it didn’t matter. The (#3) Langdon/Edmore/Munich Cardinals were not in region play anymore. Instead, the Cardinals found themselves on the court at Bismarck Event Center against the Thompson Tommies Thursday afternoon in the opening round of the 2021 NDHSAA Class B Volleyball State Tournament. 

The Cardinals, who won the 2019-20 Class B Volleyball State Tournament, found themselves in unfamiliar territory halfway through set two. After they came up with a 25-18 set one win, the Tommies capitalized on a 9-3 run to dash away from an early 8-6 Cardinal lead.

A spark of early set success quickly turned into a 25-22 set two loss for the Cardinals.

Senior middle hitter Morgan Freije (background) pumps her team up after a kill.

The loss pushed the Cardinals to the brink, and while they battled in a down-to-the-wire set three, the Tommies pulled away with the 28-26 win and 3-0 sweep at Bismarck Event Center on Nov. 18. 

With the loss, the Cardinals will move into the consolation bracket and face off against the Des Lacs-Burlington Lakers in the consolation semifinals on Nov. 19. The Tommies, meanwhile, will move into the winner’s bracket and take on the (#2) Linton/H-M-B Lions on the same date. 

The Cardinals looked to undertake a similar strategy that netted them the victory in the Class B – Region 4 Tournament last week. However, the Tommies had other ideas. While the Cardinals wanted to battle with power, the Tommies wanted to find just enough finesse to keep the opposition out of sync. 

And it worked. 

“Bottom line, they were in system more than we were,” Langdon/Edmore/Munich head coach Rich Olson said. “They passed the ball a little bit better than we did, especially early on in the match. That gave them the opportunity to attack. We could not get our hitters in rhythm because we were not passing good enough. So much of this game is ‘why aren’t we hitting?’ Well, it is because we need to get the ball to our hitters. Once we started doing that and started getting on a roll with our serve, we played pretty well. You look at two of those sets, they were relatively close. We felt if we could get that third set, anything could happen.” 

What kept the Tommies in rhythm came from senior hitter Mya Krogstad, junior hitter Summer Hegg and senior hitter Alexis Zafke. Together, the trio established a towering presence up front to keep ahead of Langdon/Edmore/Munich’s velocity and set it the other way. Once they zapped Langdon/Edmore/Munich’s speed, the Tommies emphasized tapping it to where the Cardinals were not. Hegg finished the match with three blocks and 11 kills, while Zafke and Krogstad combined for 23 kills (15 and eight, respectively). 

Although Olson and his team attempted to counter with switches and blocks, the trio overwhelmed the Langdon/Edmore/Munich defensive front. 

“We have been going with single-middle against that,” Olson said. “We tried to position our diggers in the right spots so we could make plays and get some of them. You are not going to get them all because they are that good. Good hitters are going to beat good defenses a lot. Like I said, they got the ball to their hitters in rhythm more than we got the ball to our hitters in rhythm. They also had some outstanding defensive plays and great digs that extended rallies for them. It was just too much to overcome for us.” 

Although the Cardinals were unable to adjust completely, they found a way to make it interesting. Although a back-and-forth set three initially saw the Cardinals pull ahead with a 20-15 lead, the Tommies pried their way back to tie it up, 25-25. A handful of savvy plays later, and the Tommies came away with the sweep. With the defeat, the Cardinals have been swept in two of their last four state tournament matches (3-0 against Linton/H-M-B on Nov. 21, 2020). 

No matter for the Cardinals, however. With two more matches to play, the Cardinals still have an opportunity to finish their season on a high note. 

Regardless of the result, Olson could not be prouder. 

“I am proud of this team for how hard they have played,” Olson said. “They have overcome some adversity this year, and through teamwork and having good leadership, that is why we are sitting here in Bismarck at the State Tournament. I am very proud of them and just proud to be their coach.” 

Senior middle hitter Morgan Freije picked up a triple-double for the Cardinals (18 kills, 26 assists and 22 digs). 

The Cardinals will officially battle the Lakers at 1:00 p.m. CT on Nov. 19.