Confidence fuels New Rockford-Sheyenne into regional semifinals
Following the Rockets sweep of the Hornets Tuesday night, players and coaches raced into the hallway heading into the locker room with jubilation and excitement. They didn't go into the locker room but were in the hallway for less than 10 seconds before returning to the floor to take down the net.
They weren't in a post-game team huddle or analyzing their finish, they were watching Rockets head coach Sara Myhre do a cartwheel, something she had promised she would do if the team won.
"I didn't want to do a cartwheel in front of everyone here because I was wearing a dress, so I tucked in my dress, went into the side hallway, they cheered me on and I did my cartwheel," Myhre said.
Cartwheels are a commonality among the Rockets as they do them in practice all the time according to Myhre, but Tuesday night's post-game acrobatics were a treat. A cartwheel by the coach was the icing on the cake for No. 3 New Rockford-Sheyenne (12-6) as they would power past No. 6 Harvey/Wells County (5-10) 3-0 (25-18, 25-12, 25-15) to punch its ticket into Region 4 semifinals Thursday against North Star.
"We really excited about this win," Myhre said. "They were confident going into this game. Their confidence and energy has been really fun to watch. We're taking one regional game at a time and this was a big win for us. We're excited to play North Star again."
While the Rockets were firing on all cylinders on offense, the team's confidence is what has made them a contender for a regional championship this season. When they've been down, NRS has walked away from most of its games with a positive outlook and looked forward to hopefully facing their opponent again.
"Every week these girls surprise us, coaches," Myhre said. "They've been more confident than I have ever seen. Like I said, North Star and L/E/M are the teams to beat, and they are beatable, but for New Rockford-Sheyenne to be in this position is exciting for all of us. The girls have never lost confidence."
The smiles and cheers were abundant from start to finish on the NRS side of the net, and they were contagious. At one point, senior middle hitter Kayahna Hopfauf burst out laughing at one of her teammates in response to the excitement her teammate expressed after Hopfauf picked up a kill. Hopfauf said she felt like she had an off night, but didn't stop hyping up her teammates. She would finish with 14 kills on the night.
"You really just got to hype your teammates up when you're having an off night," Hopfauf said. "That way they can stay confident and help you out a little bit."
The Rockets are on cloud nine, but it hasn't been that way for all of the season. A little over a month ago, NRS was forced into quarantine for two weeks due to COVID-19 exposure at the school. The first week out of quarantine was followed by a heavy game schedule, which hit NRS hard in fatigue on the court.
"We've had a break from games so that has helped," Myhre said. "At one point were had played four straight games in a row and I could see the fatigue when we had played North Star. The girls were just tired, so we just needed to get them into practice mode again and just get a flow going. That has really helped us over that hump."
The adjustment back to play was rushed for NRS, but they came into the tournament winning five of its last six games, which includes a five-set finish over Rolla and Griggs-Midkota, and three sweeps. The Rockets have tapped into a sense of confidence that has allowed them to roll and stay in the hunt for a regional crown.
On the court, the confidence growth has given the team a handful of options to go to on the attack, along with bringing more aggression with their attack. In their two conference losses to L/E/M and North Star in the regular season, the Rockets challenged both squads.
"We have to be aggressive and we can't be careful," Myhre said. "Being careful doesn't win games. I think when they make a mistake, they can't be careful after that. They still have to swing hard and hit open spots on the court. We have to be confident in our swinging and be blocking a lot more."
While NRS is aware of what North Star brings to the court, they believe that they have an edge in having multiple attackers to go to. Hopfauf has been a constant for NRS but has also received heavy help from senior outside hitter Chloe Heinz, senior middle hitter McKayla Waldo, and junior outside hitter Mya Cudworth. Waldo finished second in kills against the Hornets with six.
Senior libero Cassie Longnecker has also played into her role on the defensive end, collecting 19 digs in Tuesday's game. Heinz followed closely on defense with 12 digs. In playmaking, senior setter Dani Bjerke has played heavily into her role, setting up attackers successfully 31 times Tuesday night.
"I think it'll be kill for kill," Myhre said. "When you look at New Rockford-Sheyenne, we have multiple good hitters. We can hit all over on the front line."
Confidence has been the key to success for the Rockets and they plan to ride that as far as they can. Hopfauf said they are ready to get back into the gym and hit as many balls as they can without their arms falling off.
The Rockets are looking to put the work in, while keeping their expectations high, in hopes of bringing a regional title back to New Rockford. If the Rockets want to win the title, they'll have to go through North Star and possibly L/E/M, two teams they've fallen short against. However, NRS is confident that they can compete with anyone.
"I believe we can win and they believe it too," Myhre said. "You always want to believe your team can make it that far and you don't want to have any doubt. If we don't make it, it's been a great season, but if we do, it'll be great. Anything is possible and anybody is beatable."
Lake Region all-region volleyball team
Jaylynn Swanson (Langdon/Edmore/Munich)
Kaylee Lowery (Langdon/Edmore/Munich)
Lexis Olson (Langdon/Edmore/Munich)
Morgan Freije (Langdon/Edmore/Munich)
Cassie Longnecker (New Rockford-Sheyenne)
Dani Bjerke (New Rockford-Sheyenne)
Kayahna Hopfauf (New Rockford-Sheyenne)
Desidy Schwanke (Benson County)
McKenna Tofsrud (Benson County)
Danielle Hagler (North Star)
Gracie Miller (North Star)
Lindsey Nyhagen (North Star)
Kylee Baumgarn (Nelson County)
Marit Ellingson (Nelson County)
Myona Dauphinais (Four Winds/Minnewauken)