Confidence was never lost as No. 6 L/E/M upsets No. 1 Thompson in rematch
When the Cardinals came off the floor a month ago to the day at Thompson High School, narrowly falling to the Tommies, 3-2, they were upset, but not in the sense of being down on themselves or their team.
They hadn't lost confidence in who they were and focused on improving from then on out. Saturday, the Cardinals met the Tommies in Langdon, a week overdue due to COVID postponements.
After sweeping May-Port-C-G a few hours before, No. 6 Langdon/Edmore/Munich (9-2, 3-0 Region 4) would find edge out No. 1 Thompson (12-1, 5-0 Region 2) in a tight battle, snapping the Tommies undefeated streak 3-1 (26-24, 27-25, 20-25, 25-23).
"We battled," Cardinals head coach Rich Olson said. "They're such a good team and they have two lefties on the right side. How many people dream of having one good leftie and they have two. We had to do a lot of things better than we did last time we played them and I thought we did."
On the front line, senior middle hitter Lexis Olson and junior outside hitter Morgan Freije operated at an elite level with Olson picking up 27 kills and 33 digs, and Freije racking up 19 kills and 22 digs. The two were aided by freshman setter Jalynn Swanson, serving up 52 assists and 12 digs.
The duo of Olson was nonstop throughout the entire day as earlier on in the day she would lead L/E/M in kills against May-Port-C-G with 14 in the sweep. While Freije's performance played a major role through all four sets against the Tommies, she came up big in the third and fourth sets. She would find her home along the outside lines, racking up kill after kill.
"They were way ahead of us in the third set and really controlled it," Olson said. "I told them to win or lose this set, let's play better, and gain some momentum going into the fourth set. Freije probably had six or seven kills in that set. I thought she had one of the better matches in her career."
The Cardinals did drop the third set, but made the best of the situation and came into the fourth set red hot. The Cardinals would jump out to an 11-4 lead, charged by Olson and Freije, forcing a Thompson timeout. Out of the timeout, the Tommies would go on a 12-6 run to tie the game at 17.
However, this wasn't the first time in the game that L/E/M was thrown into a lead too close for comfort. In fact, the Cardinals started the game on the comeback trail. L/E/M would go down 10-4 in set one before it would storm back to set one at 15 then 22 and win it in extra points. L/E/M also snuck by in set two, winning it on their 27th points.
"The comeback in set one was huge because we were down by eight or nine points," Olson said. "To come back and win that set helped us get our confidence back. Everyone contributed. It was a total team win."
When looking at the recent history of both teams, each squad doesn't offer a lot of opportunities for their opponents to take advantage of. Thompson didn't offer L/E/M a lot of offensive opportunities, but the Cardinals took advantage of almost every slip of that Tommies had.
"We had to take advantage of anything that they gave us because it doesn't happen often where they give you a ball in the system," Olson said. "They're so good at taking a situation that doesn't look good and creating a tough situation for you...When we did get an opportunity to take some big swings I think we capitalized just enough to get the win."
Two slip-ups late and a kill from freshman outside hitter Cora Badding in the third set from Thompson put the Cardinals at set point. The Tommies would not give as they would pull within one of L/E/M's game-deciding lead. However, as she did three plays prior, Badding would spike the ball down the left court line, followed by a Thompson tip out of bound, would solidify the upset for L/E/M.
Reflecting on the narrow loss to the Tommies a month prior, L/E/M continued to learn and improve from their matchup a month ago, prompting a different result. It's all about the Cardinals' mindset of focusing on improving every day, which will empower confidence.
"Our girls were always confident," Olson said. "Even when we lost to them in Thompson, it was close and went down to the wire. We didn't leave their gym thinking we didn't have a chance. We left their gym thinking we need to get better. Every time you play somebody, even in the losses, you gain confidence. The win gives us confidence because we know we did better."
Heading through a busy month before post-season play, L/E/M faces competition similar to the Tommies. Cardinals are on the road against No. 7 Rugby (Oct. 17) and No. 10 Grafton (Oct. 27) before closing out their schedule against regional foe North Star (Nov. 2) in Cando.
"We have some very important Regional matches coming up and it's important for us to get the high seed," Olson said. "We've got some bigger matches that will hopefully put us in a better position going into the Regional tournament. Hopefully, we can just keep getting better, use each opportunity to improve, and by the end of the year we want to be playing the best we can."
Saturday Lake Region volleyball scores
No. 6 Langdon/Edmore/Munich - 3 (26-24, 27-25, 25-23)
No. 1 Thompson - 1 (25-20)
Leaders: Kills - Lexis Olson (27), Digs - Lexis Olson (33), Blocks - Kaylee Lowery (2), Aces - Lexis Olson (2), Assists - Jalynn Swanson (52)
No. 6 Langdon/Edmore/Munich - 3 (25-12, 25-14, 25-11)
Leaders: Kills - Lexis Olson (14), Digs - Morgan Freije (16), Blocks - Lexis Olson (3), Aces - three players with three, Assists - Jalynn Swanson (29)
No. 3 Oakes - 3 (25-12, 25-13, 25,17)
New Rockford-Sheyenne - 1 (25-23)
North Star vs. Four Winds/Minnewauken