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West Fargo volleyball team aims for state title

The West Fargo Packers will be making a return trip to the state tournament in Minot as the top seed from the East Region while being led by Jessie Gust (5), senior player of the year. David Samson/The Forum1 / 2
West Fargo's Sarah Denne and Blake Selisker (31) defend against Grand Forks Red River at the Packer gym. David Samson/The Forum2 / 2

When the Packers take the court today in the state volleyball tournament in Minot they will do so with one goal in mind - to return to West Fargo as state champions.

There will be no moral victories or just-happy-to-be-here attitudes. The Packers know what they want, and teams will be hard pressed to stop them.

This team already knows what it's like to have a dominating season and fall just short of the ultimate goal. Most of the same players were part of last year's team that went undefeated in the EDC during the regular season, won the EDC tournament and then lost in the state championship match to Fargo South.

And here the Packers are again, undefeated in their conference during the regular season and EDC tournament champions. This time, though, they are expecting a different result.

"This year I think we're more experienced going into state," said senior Sarah Denne. "I think we have a greater ability to just relax and play our game, and that's going to help us out when the games get tough at state."

The Packers (32-3 overall, 16-0 EDC) are coming off their fourth victory this season over a very solid Grand Forks Red River team after their win over the Roughriders in the EDC tournament title match.

The Packers, with the No. 1 seed from the east will play the WDA No. 4 seed Bismarck St. Mary's today. Bismarck High plays EDC No. 3 Fargo South in the same bracket.

"I think (a state title) is definitely within our reach," said Packers coach Paula Pierson. "I'm just very proud of how our kids are playing right now. They are very confident and playing aggressively. We're playing some great defense."

Pierson lauded the EDC tournament play of a few of West Fargo's role players, including juniors Jenna Green and Courtney Voeller and sophomore Jill Gustafson. Green's serving and defense helped rally the Packers in the decisive fifth game in the EDC title match.

"We got that top seed, so that puts a little less pressure on us, with us playing less of a difficult team in the first couple of games, so that's always helpful," said senior Aryelle Jones. "We're pretty confident in what we can do. Since the start of the year we've improved a lot and gotten a lot stronger."

"We've played together for so long," said senior Blake Selisker. "We're comfortable with each other. Our confidence level is high, and we're excited for state."

Senior Jessie Gust was named the conference's senior athlete of the year. She also made the all-EDC team, along with Denne, Selisker and Jones. Gust and Denne were also all-EDC last season, as well as all-state.

Football awards

Six Packers were named to the all-EDC football team recently. They include: seniors David Schmidt, Jake Kaiser, Zac Hoffman and Luke Solum and juniors Scott Schiller and Jake Bucholz. The all-state team will be announced later this month.

Packer of the Week

Ashley Reiter, named the state's girls swimming senior athlete of the year, is Packer of the Week after winning the 100 breaststroke state title last weekend. It's the sixth and final state championship of her prep career.