In times of uncertainty, Nelson County volleyball wins first ever game in dramatic fashion
A lot of high school teams across North Dakota, and the United States, are stepping out onto the court in a weird familiar yet unfamiliar environment.
Gyms are empty and fans, who are allowed in, are dispersed around the stands, but most teams have the comfort of playing in somewhere they've been able to call home for so many years and show pride in a familiar school crest. For the Nelson County Chargers volleyball team, the only thing that is familiar to them is each other.
Amidst a pandemic, Dakota Prairie High School and Lakota High School have come together to play under the co-op Nelson County Chargers for the first time. After having their first game canceled against Drayton/Valley-Edinburg on Sept. 1 in interest to public health, the Chargers would debut on their home court at Dakota Prairie on Thursday against North Border.
After going down 2-0 and facing a potential sweep, Nelson County (1-0) would rally off three straight wins to defeat North Border (0-2), 3-2 (19-25, 20-25, 25-21, 28-26, 15-13).
"This was a huge confidence builder for us," Chargers head coach Carrie Eidsness said. "We hung with them in those first two sets, but we just couldn't pull it through. I told them that this was our first game on our home court and that we needed to win this next set and keep going."
In response to dropping the first two sets, Eidsness looked to her bench and saw an unlikely hero step up. Sophomore Krista Lippert, who according to Eidsness hadn't really practiced in a starting six role, offered the Chargers support to power to three straight wins. She finished the match with seven digs.
"When we switched things up in the third set, Krista Lippert went in and really helped us out," Eidsness said. "She's never really practiced on the starting six side and when I put her in she really sealed the deal."
For a team that was playing competitively for the first time, Nelson County's production as a team began to show potential, specifically . The Chargers had a 24-20 lead in the fourth set before North Border would really back to force overtime. However, Nelson County did crack under pressure, forcing a fifth set 28-26.
"Communication was either going to be our key or it was going to block us and they were able to work together to win that fourth set," Eidsness said. "They're a great group of girls that is really coachable. They kept each other positive when someone made a mistake and team work really pulled us through."
The fifth set saw the Chargers complete the comeback, defeating the Eagles 15-13 for the programs first ever win. A shot from junior Hollie Emory would see the North Border player fumble the volley and cause the Chargers bench to erupt. It wasn't just pure excitement for Nelson County, but according to Eidsness, it was a sigh of relief.
The Chargers were lead in kills by senior Kylee Baumgarn (14), blocks by Emory (6), aces by sophomore Rylan Parsley (4), dig by junior Payton Lippert (11), and assists by junior Marit Ellingson (19).
In a debut season that is quite unlike any other, the Chargers are not worried about how things are different, but are just grateful that they are able to play this season. Nelson County faces May-Port CG on Tuesday at the Lakota Community Center.
"We want to keep everyone safe, but we still want to entertain people," Eidsness said. "Our biggest concern was just let us play. We'll do what we have to keep safe, but we just wanted to play. If that meant having no fans, that's fine, but these girls needed to play."
Thursday Lake Region volleyball scores
Grand Forks Red River - 3 (25-19, 25-17, 25-15)
Devils Lake - 1 (25-18)
No. 1 Langdon/Edmore/Munich - 3 (25-19, 25-16, 25-16)
Cavalier - 0