Defending EDC champs head into postseason ranked fifth
The West Fargo volleyball team is heading into the postseason riding on the coattails of two straight regular-season losses.
Certainly not the momentum the East Region defending champions two years running were hoping for.
Hopefully, the No. 5 Packers can turn the tide when they face No. 4 Fargo North in the Eastern Dakota Conference tournament today in the Fargo Civic Center. The Packers-Spartans game starts thirty minutes after the end of the previous game, which begins at 1 p.m.
West Fargo had been ranked higher in the EDC, but was bumped to fifth place even though it and Fargo North have the same conference record at 8-6. According to the EDC Web site, the Spartans took the tie-breaker based on regular season head-to-head wins during the regular season. The Spartans also have a better overall record at 22-12, compared to West Fargo's 18-14.
West Fargo volleyball coach Paula Pierson said her team needs to stay focused going into the postseason.
"I think for us, we need to stay confident and stay aggressive," she said. "That's what we're going to concentrate on this week."
Even with the slip late in the year, West Fargo has had a solid season.
"We've been playing well," Pierson said. "We've made some adjustments about half way through and we're real comfortable right now."
After losing key seniors last season, the Packers excelled with what experience they possessed.
"I think sometimes our inexperience shows for brief moments and teams capitalize on that," Pierson said. "We need to keep our confidence and composure and not let our opponents have those runs on us."
The first of the Packers' losses last week came Tuesday at No.2 Fargo Shanley (12-2, 26-5) during the teams' "Dig The Cure" game.
To help raise cancer awareness, both teams wore pink and fans were encouraged to do likewise. The teams also raised more than $2,600 through T-shirt sales, a silent auction and the "Miracle Minute," in which volleyball team members had only one minute to raise as much money as possible from Tuesday's crowd.
The Packers kept it close through the first bout. Sophomore Allison Barta sparked a run with three straight aces and got the Packers up 12-9. But the Deacons rallied and eventually took the game 25-19.
West Fargo picked up a win during the third set, a solid 25-15 trouncing, but tripped up during the fourth game and succumbed to Fargo Shanley, which won the match 25-20, 25-17, 15-25, 25-17.
Barta finished with four aces and 19 assists. Carissa Becher and Jenna Green racked up eight kills apiece and Courtney Voeller grabbed 24 digs.
Fargo Shanley was paced by Hannah Sitzman and Sammi Post, who each tacked on 11 kills. The Packers also had a tough time defending against six-foot Hillary Rotunda, who had nine kills and three blocks.
West Fargo's last regular-season game was a home stand against visiting No. 3 Fargo South. The Packers started right with a first-set win, but couldn't keep the pace and folded to the Bruins 25-20, 21-25, 19-25, 26-24, 1-15.
Barta racked up an impressive 24 assists for the Packers while Courtney Voeller led the team with 11 kills. West Fargo's defensive force came from Carissa Becher, who amassed 21 digs.
Siri Burch had a game-high 12 kills for Fargo South.
Swimmers take EDC title
The defending EDC and State champion Packers pulled off a stunner Saturday, Nov. 7, edging Fargo South by 2.5 points for the East Region title.
Even though the Bruins accumulated seven top-three finishes, including first-place finishes in the 200 medley relay and 100 breaststroke, West Fargo proved its strength as a cohesive team.
The Packers never finished higher than second place in any event, but finished with six top-three finishes and got a spread of points through the middle.
Senior Chelsea Gentzkow again proved herself to be one of West Fargo's top swimmers after taking second in the 100 backstroke (1:02.92), barely falling behind Grand Forks Red River's Skavlem by less than three-tenths of a second. Gentzkow also finished third in the 500 freestyle (5:29.36).
Eighth-grade phenom Danica Dutt also didn't disappoint, earning second-place honors in the 100 butterfly with a 59.98. The Packers' other second-place finish came in the 100 breaststroke to sophomore Paige Weisz, who came in a little over a half second behind the leader with a 1:10.92.
West Fargo's next stop is the North Dakota State Tournament, on Nov. 13-14 in Grand Forks.
The biggest individual competition will come from Minot senior Dagny Knutson, who has qualified first in the state this season for every swimming event except the diving competitions.
Likewise, the stiffest team competition will come from out West.
Twice this season West Fargo fell to West Region teams. The first loss was Oct. 3, at the UND Invitational. The Packers finished in fourth place behind Minot, Bismarck Century and Eagan (Minn.) High School. More recently, West Fargo finished third at the Jamestown Invitational on Oct. 31. The winners: Williston and Bismarck Century.
But if the Packers core of swimmers can excel like they did during the East Region meet, West Fargo has a chance at finishing near the top once again.
Shoberg is Sports Editor of the Pioneer. He can be reached at 701-451-5717 or firstname.lastname@example.org.