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The West Fargo Packers celebrate their win Saturday over Wahpeton during the Eastern Dakota Conference tournament at West Fargo High School. Carrie Snyder / Forum Communications Co.

STATE-BOUND

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In 2008, the West Fargo volleyball team entered the postseason undefeated in conference play. They went on to win both the regular season and Eastern Dakota Conference championships before taking third place at the state tournament.

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Since then, the Packers have not made the trip back to state.

That will all change Thursday.

Fifth-ranked West Fargo defeated No. 7 Wahpeton in straight sets Saturday during a state-qualifying match on the final day of the East Region tournament at West Fargo High School to earn their long-awaited berth.

It was the culmination of a tough three-game series, one that saw the Packers both administer upsets and experience heartaches.

West Fargo's first test of the postseason came Tuesday when they faced Fargo Davies.

The No. 4 Eagles topped the Packers 3-2 in the two teams' only meeting of the season Oct. 27.

This time, because of their ranking, Davies would not only have a past victory to work off of, but also home-court advantage.

So it may have come as somewhat of a shock when the Packers walked away with a commanding straight-set victory, 25-17, 25-18, 25-12, to advance to the East Region championship semifinal match.

Outside hitter Courtney Suppa led West Fargo with 11 kills, while Allison Barta and Christina Bruenjes added 7 kills apiece en route to the upset win.

It was good to defeat a higher-ranked team so soundly, especially when considering their next opponent.

West Fargo prepared to face none other than undefeated Grand Forks Red River.

On Friday, Red River proved early that it deserved that title. The Roughriders led by as many as 10 points during the first set, before winning outright, 25-15.

Their prowess continued into the second set as they took an early lead and gradually increased the point gap.

But the Packers were not about to rollover, even as the Riders pulled away.

West Fargo chipped away at an 8-point lead halfway through the set. Then, down 21-16, Hayley Miller took the serve and aced her first attempt to spark a four-point spree by West Fargo. Suppa and Barta contributed kills.

The Packers suddenly found themselves within two points of Red River, and within striking distance of a set win. Barta decreased that gap with a commanding kill that just stayed inside the line.

The next play, West Fargo's Hannah Schnepf took the serve. After a brief volley, Riders at the line set up a kill. Just as the ball was struck, Bruenjes leaped to make the tying block.

Would finish with the block and three kills on the night.

Schnepf aced her next serve to give the Packers their first lead of the game.

But just as West Fargo was prepared to pick up the win, Red River struck back. Hadley Steffen got a kill to tie the set 24-24. The Packers answered to regain the lead, but Red River scored three straight points to win it 27-25.

The final set was a mirror of the first. Red River jumped out to an early lead and held on for the 25-18 victory.

Even with the loss, West Fargo was not ready to see all their hard work disappear so quickly.

The next day, they proved it by defeating Wahpeton and earning their ticket to the state tournament.

Barta, a senior, led the Packers with a tournament total of 23 kills, one block and 6 aces. She was West Fargo's lone All-Conference representative, garnering her third honor in as many years.

Coming into state as the East No. 4, West Fargo will be faced with some touch competition right out of the gate as they take on West No. 1 Bismarck Century at noon on Thursday at the FargoDome.

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