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Boys soccer fans should be proud of fifth-place finish

Bismarck St. Mary's Jordan Bartsch (8) and West Fargo's Ryne Schaeffer battle for control last Friday during state tournament play at Shanley High school.1 / 2
Bismarck St. Mary's Tanner Hersch and West Fargo's Josh Hanson go up for a header last Friday afternoon during state torunament play at Fargo Shanley.2 / 2

Hey all you West Fargo fans, stand up and give a round of applause for your boys soccer team, who returned from the state tournament hoisting the fifth-place trophy.

Winning consolation certainly is nothing to sneeze at for the Packers, who reached state for the first time since 2005 and finished 11-6-4 overall for the season and 4-3-3 in the Eastern Dakota Conference. West Fargo boys soccer coach Doug Millar couldn't be more proud of his team.

The consolation championship is "a definite reflection on how hard these kids worked," he said.

In retrospect, the only thing Millar would have liked to see change was the outcome of their first-round game, a close 2-1 shootout loss to Bismarck-St. Mary's.

"If there is a sad thing, it's we that played well enough to win all three of our matches," he said "We generated a lot of looks and the kids kept pounding the net, but couldn't find the back of it."

The tournament, originally slated for a Thursday start in Jamestown, was moved to Fargo after inclement weather forced postponement of the opening round. The first round began Friday with semifinals and finals played Saturday.

After falling to Bismarck-St. Mary's, the Packers knew their consolation semifinal match against Mandan was key. West Fargo scored two first-half goals, one from senior Ryne Schaeffer and the other off a Jade Johnson penalty kick. The Packers peppered Braves' goalkeeper Jonathan Tischmak, who stopped 18 shots. Going into the second half with a 2-0 lead let Millar mix up his players.

"It allowed us to sit some guys and prepare for (Grand Forks Central)," Millar said, referring to the fifth-place game. "I really wanted to make sure everyone saw the field, too. I felt the state tournament was something every player on our roster had to experience."

Earlier this season, West Fargo played Central to a 1-1 tie at home and then lost a close match in Grand Forks. Beating the Knights in the consolation championship game was a feat of redemption for the Packers.

"Central had been aggressor during the first two matches of the season," Millar said. "We were the aggressor this time around. We were really firing the ball, knocking stuff off the frame, sometimes missing within just inches."

The Knights shifted the momentum of the match their way early in the first half, getting a goal from senior midfielder Kris Scott. The Packers came back in the second half, however, getting the critical tying goal off a penalty kick from junior Kody Duncan. Just like in their first-round loss to the Saints, West Fargo again was in a shootout situation, something that had been completely foreign to both Millar and his team before the tournament.

"The first shootout (against Bismarck-St. Mary's) the kids were extremely nervous," Millar said. "Both the shooters and the keeper didn't really know what to expect. But when we got into that shootout with Central, they were so confident, so much more relaxed."

That confidence may have been what helped West Fargo win the fifth-place shootout. "After keeper Braden Schmid stuffed Central's final shot, we knew it was all over," Millar said.

Part of what made the Packers run during the state tournament so successful were the efforts from his staff. After West Fargo's loss, Millar said his staff came up with an idea to change the game plan.

"We typically only run one striker up top," Millar said. "After we dropped our first match. ... we kind of changed the responsibilities of the midfielder, changing them to an attacking mid. It gave teams who played us before a different look."

Changing the norm for his team was a risky proposition, but necessary, Millar said. "What it told the kids is we weren't going to just go out there and play for a tie," he said.

Some Packers also brought home individual honors. Daniel Hoy and Duncan were named to the all-tournament team. Both also were named to the All-EDC team, along with Schaeffer and Schmid.

To celebrate their successful season, the Packers have an awards banquet scheduled for 6 p.m. on Oct. 27 at the Sheyenne Ninth Grade Center. The original location was supposed to be at West Fargo High School, but there was a late venue change.

Volleyball still a force

The Packers volleyball team is proving it still is a force in the Eastern Dakota Conference.

West Fargo won both its games last week and has won eight of its past 10 games. The Packers started last week at home, beating Devils Lake in straight sets 26-24, 25-21, 25-22.

It was another team effort for the Packers, who currently are 17-11 overall and 7-3 in the Eastern Dakota Conference.

Juniors Carissa Becher and Katelyn Holland paced West Fargo's defensive play with 13 digs apiece. They also shined on offense: Becher contributing six kills and a service ace and Holland putting up five kills and two aces. Junior Jill Gustafson and sophomore Allison Barta each racked up 12 assists and an ace and combined for nine kills.

Courtney Voeller (four kills, three aces), Katie Anderson (two aces) and Danielle Nelson (four kills, three blocks) all helped keep West Fargo competitive.

Devils Lake (7-14, 2-7 EDC) saw good play from several players, too. Maren Rygh, who finished with 12 kills and three blocks on the night, was a force for the Firebirds. Keeping the Packers from scoring more kills was the defensive prowess of Kenzie Wade, who came up with 12 digs while returning seven kills. Kasi Eisenzimmer had 26 assists.

To finish their weeklong sweep, West Fargo hit the road Thursday and beat host Grand Forks Central in straight sets.

Voeller keyed the Packers' offense, racking up a dozen kills and an ace. Two other players also hit the double digits in points: Gustafson with 16 assists and Holland with 14 digs.

Melissa Ege cranked out 20 assists for the Knights.

West Fargo hit the road back to Grand Forks on Oct. 20 to face East Region powerhouse Red River (22-3, 9-1 EDC). Information from the game was unavailable when this edition of the Pioneer went to press. The Packers finally will be back home Oct. 27, to host Wahpeton (8-15, 2-7 EDC).

Football delivers rout

Another road trip, another win for Packers football.

On Oct. 16, West Fargo (5-3, 3-1 EDC) visited Grand Forks Central (2-6, 0-4 EDC) and beat the Knights 28-0.

West Fargo quarterback Bryce Jorgenson was the clear star of the night. The senior passed for 294 yards, finishing 13-for-20 while rushing for two touchdowns and passing for two more. He had 41 yard rushing on 12 carries.

Several Packers receivers got their hands on the ball, too. Brady Schwartz led West Fargo with four catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns. Zach Neer had four catches for 94 yards while Tyler Lehmann had one catch for 43 yards. Lehmann was 7-for-53 rushing and running back Jacob Kiefer was 12-for-51.

The Packers had a home game Wednesday, Oct. 21 against Jamestown, but the results were unavailable when this edition of the Pioneer went to press.

Swimmers slip in Minot

So far, the Packers girls swimming and diving team has dominated the competition. Two meets last weekend in Minot changed that, however.

West Fargo finished second at the Minot Mini Invite on Oct. 16, trailing host Minot by 162 points. Then Oct. 17, the Packers slipped all the way to ninth place at the Minot Pentathlon, scrounging up a mere 70 points and finishing ahead of only Fargo North.

West Fargo also had a meet Oct. 20 at home hosting Wahpeton, the results of which were unavailable when this edition of the Pioneer went to press.