Devils Lake volleyball picks up much needed confidence booster in win over Wahpeton

Jack Williams
Devils Lake Journal
Devils Lake volleyball players celebrate after scoring a point in a game against Wahpeton on Sept. 12 at Devils Lake High School. The Firebirds won 3-2

Wins haven't come easy to Devils Lake in the early season. Having to play a conference schedule out of the gate instead of facing non-conference opposition as they would in an ordinary season, the Firebirds were 0-3 heading into Saturday's matchup, only winning one of their last 10 sets.

Facing off against Wahpeton (0-5, 0-5 Eastern Dakota), who was in an almost identical situation as the Firebirds looking for its first win, Devils Lake (1-3, 1-3 Eastern Dakota) went down to the wire with the Huskies and came out on top, defeating Wahpeton 3-2 (23-25, 25-18, 25-17, 27-25, 15-9). 

"It was a complete team effort from the bench to the girls who started on the court," Firebirds head coach Megan Sylling said. "They really came together, pulled through, and showed how much they wanted it." 

 Devils Lake's first win of the season didn't come easy as they had to make up for lost ground in the fifth set. The Firebirds saw themselves up 24-21 in the fourth set, with a 2-1 lead, and could close out the game. The Huskies would go on a three-point run to tie the game and eventually force a decisive set five. 

Having Wahpeton jump back into the game and force an extra set, Sylling said that she was not worried about how her team would respond in the fifth set as she knows it's common for high school teams to get into their own heads. 

In the fifth set, the Firebirds continued to roll off of a strong communicative sense that was seen throughout the game to power past the Huskies for the win. Devils Lake picked up 11 of their 15 points off of kills in the fifth set.

"This is the best communication and teamwork we've had so far this season," Sylling said. "They just continue to be loud and talked. As long as they're talking, not getting into their own heads and keep pushing on the court, that's what we need to see. They didn't just communicate well, but they had fun." 

 Throughout the game, the Firebirds front line was led off by sophomore middle hitter Rachel Dahlen, who collected 11 kills and six blocks for the Firebirds en route to a win. Her spike for her 11th kill in the fifth set was a game-changing moment for Devils Lake as they neared victory. 

"Today was huge for her [Dahlen]," Sylling said. "She found her blocking arms and was 100 percent a chaining point in the game when she really started helping with the blocks. That really helped with the back row and came in with some big swings at the end." 

While the Firebirds did eventually find and capitalize on their blocking, recording a collective eight in the match, it did take them a while to find their game starting off. Devils Lake was able to tie the Huskies at 23 in set one, but an error and a block would set them back 1-0 early.

 "What we need to do is have a faster start," Sylling said. "We need really need to working on pushing those first couple of points and getting into the game, and starting out with big swings." 

While the Firebirds front row surged as they moved deeper into the game, Devils Lake's back row stood tall defensively seeing four players break into double-digits in digs. Senior libero Ellie Volk had a stand out performance with 36 digs. She was followed by seniors Jailyn Martinson (12), Addison Ziegler (12), and Malayna Barednt (10). 

In picking up their first win of the season, the veteran Devils Lake squad, rostering nine seniors, looks to this win as a confidence booster heading deeper into their schedule. Firebirds get Tuesday off before heading south to face Fargo South on Thursday. The Bruins are in a similar situation as the Firebirds as they've dropped four of their last five, with their only win coming against Wahpeton. 

"This was a confidence boost for these girls to show how fantastic of volleyball players they are," Sylling said. "We're going to continue to push as a team and compete with all the other teams they play this season." 

A confidence boost is what the Firebirds have needed in the early season and now are looking for capitalize on that. Sylling said she's expecting the win to give Devils Lake the push that they have been looking for. 

"We just really needed to find our stride and see what everyone is like on the court," Sylling said. "Getting this win under our belt is really going to push the girls and give them that confidence boost that they need. From there, we're going to continue to push and push to get those Ws." 

Contact Jack Williams with any comments at or on Twitter @jackgwilliams. 

Senior setter Malayna Barendt sets up the ball for an offensive in a game against Wahpeton on Sept. 12 at Devils Lake High School. The Firebirds won 3-2.

Devils Lake vs. Wahpeton box score

Devils Lake - 3 (25-18, 25-17, 15-9)

Wahpeton - 2 (25-23, 27-25) 

Aces: Addison Ziegler (7), Malayna Varendt (4), Jenna Frehlich (2)

Digs: Ellie Volk (36), Jailyn Martison (12), Addison Ziegler (12), Malayna Barendt (10), Brynn Johnson (9), Danyel Elverud (8), Jenna Frehlich (7) 

Assists: Jenna Frehlich (20), Brynn Jonson (13), Bridgett Harkness (3) 

Kills: Rachel Dahlen (11), Malayna Barendt (9), Addison Ziegler (9), Karli Krogfoss (8), Jailyn Martinson (4) 

Blocks: Rachel Dahlen (9), Jailyn Martinson (2), Karli Krogfoss (1)