Roughriders use rallies to sweep Firebirds

Chris Harris, DLJ Sports
Red River's Liv Lotysz (11) goes up for the block of an attack attempt by Devils Lake's Jes Mertens during a NDHSAA volleyball match Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019, in Devils Lake.

To best describe what occurred during Devils Lake’s volleyball match against Grand Forks Red River, imagine picking up a handful of sand and then letting it slide out between your fingers.

With big leads in two of the sets Thursday, Sept. 5, the Firebirds saw both of their advantages vanish like wind blown sand as the Roughriders defeated Devils Lake in straight sets.

“I thought overall we played OK, defensively we got a lot better. Our serve receive really struggled and we have to learn how to play when we’re up,” said Firebirds head coach Courtney Carlson.

The Firebirds (2-6, 0-1 Eastern Dakota Conference) built an eight point lead in the second set after Red River jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Consecutive Olivia Elfman aces tied the set at 3-all and then gave the Firebirds the lead. It was part of a stretch that saw Devils Lake outscore the Roughriders 10-0. Trailing 13-7, the Roughriders eventually regained the lead after back-to-back aces by Ashlee Welch made the score 14-13.

The Roughriders led by five (24-19) late in the game, the Firebirds got to within two before Red River ended the set, 25-22.

In the third set, the Firebirds built a 10-point lead before the Roughriders (3-5, 1-1) clawed their way back into it. A kill by Kaylee Lancaster tied the game at 16 apiece, the Firebirds got the point back to take the lead but with the scored tied at 17, an ace by Ella Fosse gave Red River the lead for good. The Roughriders won the match clinching set 25-19.

Red River won the opening set 25-23.

“We talked about momentum a lot and volleyball is a game of a lot of momentum and the things that we need to do are little simple things to make sure momentum stays on our side. … Making sure our team togetherness is 100 percent a good way to keep momentum on our side,” Carlson said.

Elfman finished with 13 assists, eight aces and eight digs, Hope Schumaker and Maya Barendt (two blocks and eight digs) each had four kills, Abby Johnson had 18 digs and Jes Mertens had 10 digs for the Firebirds.

“It’s a lot mental right now. Making sure we’re making smart plays and learning how to play when we’re up,” said Carlson.

Lancaster had seven kills, Welch had 10 assists and four aces and Emma Demott had 16 digs for Red River.

Chris Harris can be reached at and on Twitter: @ChrisHarris_DLJ