Confidence proves to be key as North Star volleyball upsets No. 9 Our Redeemers
Set one and set five for the Bearcats in their game against Our Redeemers were two completely different stories. One saw North Star catch fire from the first serve while the other saw the Bearcats fighting for their lives.
However, they were bookended the same exact way. A wind up from junior middle hitter Danielle Hagler and follow-through, taking on a first point and a winning point for North Star.
Nothing was constant in Thursday night's game in Cando, except for Hagler. She would power through five sets, amounting 27 kills and 25 digs to help North Star (3-1, 0-0 Region 4) to upset No. 9 Our Redeemers (3-3, 0-0 Region 6), 3-2 (25-17, 21-25, 15-25. 25-24, 15-12).
"It was a fun match," Bearcats head coach Aubree Page said. "It's nice to play teams like that. They played a really good game and we had to fight hard."
After North Star caught the Knights off-balance in the first set, dominating them 25-17 and powered by three early kills and a block from Hagler, Our Redeemers made a strong defensive adjustment in the second and third sets, centralized on limiting Hagler's role.
On her attack in sets two and three, she was met by a strong blocking presence. When her teammates went on the attack, the Knights were there in middle court for the dig. After a 10 point loss in set three, and now down 2-1, the Bearcats needed a quick response.
"They were tipping a lot and hitting at us, so we just needed to make sure that we were covering the tips and reorganizing our defense in the back row," Page said. "From there we just needed to sub some good passers in."
It couldn't get any closer in the fourth set as the lead would change five times and see both teams within at most three points of each other all the way through. With the tip in response from the Bearcats, they were able to pull the triple-block off of Hagler and allow her to get back into a scoring position.
Hagler would pick up four kills in the fourth set, including a late kill to tie the game at 24 and pull North Star out of a match point situation. An out of bounds volley by the Knights would give the Bearcats the edge and an ace from junior setter Lindsey Nyhagen would force a fifth set for North Star. Nyhagen played a major role at the net, collecting 25 assists and 21 digs in the game.
"We just needed to dig a little deeper," Page said. "You're down a couple of sets and it's hard to stay positive, so we were just trying to get our energy back up, get excited, and have fun."
While Our Redeemers didn't make too much of an adjustment to their offensive and defensive game in the later sets, as the found success off of it in sets two and three, the Bearcats had a significant response. Five Bearcats had 10 or more digs and three had 20 or more digs. Junior outside hitter Gracie Miller racked up a team-high 27 digs while Hagler and Nyhagen would follow. Senior middle blocker Mackenzie Gleason had 16 and senior setter Jessica Bertsch had 13.
In the same mindset, the Knights had someone combatting Hagler's attempts throughout the game as senior libero Kendal Braun went for a team-high and all-around game-high of 29 digs. Both attacks were starting to even out and set five was showing implications of another neck-and-neck battle.
Set five saw the Bearcats sprint out to an early 10-5 lead, forcing a Knights timeout. A major factor in North Star's surge into set five was Gleason's ability to connect with kills that she had struggled with earlier in the game. Her presence in the fourth and fifth sets gave the Bearcats the offensive spark they needed as she would pick up 10 kills and four blocks on the night.
"She came into a timeout they [Our Redeemers] called and she felt more confident," Page said. "She said it feels good to feel confident. She just needs to know that in her head she's good. She just realized she could do that."
That same confidence spread through the entire roster in the final set and was able to push through to the 15 point margin. Despite the Knights going on a 6-0 run to tie the game at 11, a block, an out of bounds volley by Our Redeemers, and a slam from Hagler would secure the upset for the Bearcats.
"I just always push to have that confidence and they need it," Page said. "We can see what they're capable of as coaches, but sometimes they can get down onto themselves. They just need to realize that they are good and push that self-confidence."
North Star picks up its third straight win and its first over a top 10 opponent. Confidence is what has been driving the Bearcats in the early season from performance on the court to faith in leadership. In a team with six seniors, Page selected Hagler as captain because of the confidence she has in her leadership on and off the court.
"She is our captain and she is not a senior," Page said. "Some teams pick a senior for a captain because that's just been the way they've always done it. I changed that this year because she is such a good leader. She's amazing at the net, very court aware and awesome in the back row."
In a veteran-heavy team with high expectations, North Star is looking to make that extra stride from the regional championship, where they have been a few times, into the state tournament. Confidence has shown to be key for the Bearcats and they looking to use it as a weapon going forward.
"We've played some really good matches this year already and it's been exciting and fun," Page said. "This gives us more confidence heading forward and we're looking forward to it."
Tuesday night volleyball scores
North Star - 3 (25-17, 26-24,15-12)
No. 9 Our Redeemers - 2 (25-21, 25-15)
No. 3 Langdon/Edmore/Munich - 3 (25-4, 25-0, 25-10)
Rolette/Wolford - 0