Senior night sweep leaves Benson County volleyball hungry for more

Jack Williams
Devils Lake Journal
Benson County senior setter Keryn Nelsen sets the ball for a scoring opportunity in a game against TGU on Sept. 8 at Leeds High School. The Wildcats won, 3-0.

On Tuesday night, the Benson County Wildcats volleyball team was as close to cloud nine as they could be without leaving the hardwood floor. In a season where nothing is certain, the Wildcats celebrated Senior Night at their first home game of the season, honoring their four seniors: Kearyn Nelsen, Mallorie Sabo, Kadrien Sten and Maegan Parent. 

Players, coaches and school officials wanted to host the celebrations early, like many teams around the state, because they are unsure if teams will still be playing come late October due to the ongoing pandemic. Despite the odd feeling of having the celebrations early on the season, many were happy that they had a chance to honor these players.

“I have mixed feelings about this cause you never know what’s going to happen here on out,” Nelsen said. “I’m glad our administration decided to do it early, and all the credit to our coaches for giving us a special night.” 

The senior night celebrations just added fuel to Benson County’s (2-0, 0-0 Region 4) flame as they would roll past Towner/Granville/Upham (1-3, 0-1 Region 6) 3-0 (25-16, 25-13, 25-10). The Wildcat’s start to this season is a polar opposite from last as they started off 0-3 in 2019, which included a sweep to the Titans. 

“They came out and played with a lot of heart for our seniors and it was great to win on their senior night,” Wildcats head coach April Duchscher said. “They’ve just improved a ton since I started coaching them last season and I’m just proud of each of them.” 

A collective team domination by the Wildcats was led off by its seniors, specifically Nelsen, as she would be the Wildcats go to setter at the net, putting up a team high 17 assists. Nelsen would also prove to be a weapon at the service line as she would lock in three aces along the way. 

“It’s really the passes I get from my teammates that help me set up scoring opportunities,” Nelsen said. “Credit to my back row players that give me a perfect pass every time, and even if it’s not perfect, we still manage to get a set and a hit. I can’t complain.” 

Duchscher said that Nelsen’s transition to setter last season has proved to be extremely beneficial not just on the court, but off the court as well. The senior has stood out as team leader, energizing the team when needed. 

“She’s definitely the spark plug of the team,” Duchscher said. “She’s done a tremendous job at the net whether it’s setting, blocking, or hitting. She can do it all.” 

Despite Benson County’s control throughout the game, it wasn’t as smooth a start as the team intended. A handful of errors on both sides of the net, saw the Wildcats with a small edge. Eventually, the team would find their footing to win the first set off a 25th point spike from junior Desidy Schwanke, 25-16. She would lead the Wildcats in kills with eight, aces with three and pick up 10 digs. 

The second set saw the Wildcats build a large lead out of the gate, but see the Titans chop it down to 10 points as Benson County neared the 20 point margin. However, the Wildcats would outscore TGU, 7-5 in the final stretch for a 25-13 win and have a chance to sweep. 

“We know our game, we know our pace of play, so we just had to do our thing in that second set,” Nelsen said. 

The third set saw the Wildcats cruise to a sweep as they would limit the Titans to only 10 points in the final stanza for a 25-10 win. While they only have two games under their belt, the Wildcats have won six of their last eight sets. The hot start early is something Benson County is looking to roll off of early on. 

“We have a couple of big games coming up and we start conference play next week, so that’ll be huge,” Duchscher said. “We’ll just continue to practice and improve our game as we go.” 

The Wildcats have set their standards high this season after a strong showing in the Class B Super Regional last year. The team took third after defeating New Rockford-Sheyenne and Rolla before falling to eventual state champion Landon/Edmore/Munich. Eyes are set on a regional championship after last season’s finish and a hot start early widened the eyes of Benson County even more. 

“Optimistic is our word of the season and I think we can go really far,” Nelsen said. “We got third in regionals last year, so we’re really hoping for the big win this year.” 

As Benson County continues its road deeper into an abnormal season with high hopes for a championship in November, the Wildcats walked away from the gym with the feeling that they proved something. Not to the Titans. Not to themselves. Not to the seniors, but to the people in the stands. 

“We never really found ourselves tonight, but we found a way to fight through it and find that energy,” Duchscher said. “One of the girls said I feel like everyone comes to the game not to watch us, but to eat popcorn. I told them that let's show them that they want to watch us and excite them, so they’ll want to watch us more.” 

Contact Jack Williams with any comments at JGWilliams1@gannett.com or on Twitter @jackgwillliams

The Benson County Wildcats huddle up after a point in a game against TGU on Sept. 8 at Leeds High School. The Wildcats won 3-0.

Tuesday Lake Region volleyball scores

Fargo North - 3 (25-15, 25-13, 25-17) 

Devils Lake - 0 

Leaders: Aces - Ellie Volk (2), Kills - Addison Ziegler (5), Assists - Jenna Frehlich (5), Brynn Johnson (5), Blocks - Rachel Dahlen (1), Digs - Ellie Volk - 9 

Benson County - 3 (25-16, 25-13, 25-10) 

TGU - 0 

Leaders: Aces - Desidy Schwanke (3), Kills - Desidy Schwanke (8), Assists - Kearyn Nelsen (17), Blocks - Megan Parent (5), Digs - Jaylen Anderson (11)