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Volleyball slips at East Region; girls swimming and diving takes sixth at state

West Fargo's Allison Barta returns the ball to Fargo North during the East Region tournament Thursday at the Fargo Civic Center. Dave Wallis/The Forum1 / 2
West Fargo's Jill Gustafson, Katelyn Holland (4), Carissa Becher (23), Allison Barta (20) and Courtney Voeller celebrate their third-game win over Fargo North on Thursday in Fargo. Dave Wallis/The Forum2 / 2

Just like that, the fall sports season at West Fargo High School is over.

Two sports - volleyball and girls swimming and diving - had their final hurrahs last week.

First to finish was volleyball.

The Eastern Dakota Conference defending champion Packers started out on the right foot during the East Region Tournament on Nov. 12-14 in Fargo.

Their 25-21, 21-25, 25-21, 25-21 win over No. 4 Fargo North (8-6 EDC, 24-13 overall) on Thursday gave them much-needed momentum heading into Friday's semifinal match against No. 1 Grand Forks Red River.

But their title retention ended as the Roughriders (13-1, 29-3) handily beat the Packers in straight sets, 25-19, 25-21, 25-13. Red River would go on to win the tournament, besting No. 3 Fargo South in the final.

West Fargo (8-6, 19-16) still had a chance for a North Dakota State Tournament berth, however, but was edged by lowly Devils Lake on Saturday, 25-18, 24-26, 18-25, 29-27, 15-8.

It was a shocking loss by the No. 4 Packers, whose season ended prematurely to a team sitting second-to-last in the Eastern Dakota Conference at 2-12. The last time West Fargo faced the Firebirds was Oct. 12, which resulted in a clean sweep by the Packers in straight sets.

Now the Packers must look to next year as the top teams in the state square off for the State Tournament in Minot, on Nov. 19-21.

On Thursday, West Fargo faced a Spartans team closely matched in many respects. The two teams had squared off twice during regular-season play, each winning one contest.

The Packers came out of the gate with a full head of steam on this go-around, getting game-highs from junior Jill Gustafson (23 assists) and senior Courtney Voeller (23 digs). Ali Barta and Carissa Becher both tallied 10 kills while Katelyn Holland cranked out a team-high three service aces.

The Spartans were paced by senior Angie Waller, who amassed game-highs in kills (13) and a aces (seven).

But the notion of David defeating Goliath never came to fruition for West Fargo against Red River. The Roughriders had too many weapons at their disposal and the Packers struggled to put up points.

Red River senior Emily Evers tallied a game-high 10 kills while Emily Asche, Jordyn Steffen and Alexa Bateman combined for 10 aces.

The Packers, meanwhile, saw meager team-highs of five kills from Barta and three aces from Jenna Green.

West Fargo carried the lackluster performance with it when facing the Firebirds.

Even with an astounding defensive showing from Voeller with 30 digs, somehow Devils Lake managed to overwhelm the Packers, getting game-high kills from Steph Mertens (14) and assists from Taylor Wade (26).

Though the Packers' season is over, there is much to build on for next season. Firstly, they only will be losing three seniors in Kristin Kautz, Voeller and Green. Sitting in the wings is a platoon of underclassmen riddled with talent, including sophomore Barta who, along with Green, were named to the East Region All-Conference team.

If West Fargo can use this season as a building year, it is no stretch of the imagination to say they will be fierce contenders next season in both the EDC and the state.

Swimming and diving team places sixth at state

West Fargo girls swimming and diving was a team to be reckoned with for much of the season.

At the State Tournament on Nov. 6-7 in Minot, the Packers faced tough odds, but still managed to finish sixth in a field of 12 schools.

The competition at this year's State Tournament, especially from the West, was exceptional. Bismarck Century won its first state title since 1993, upsetting six-time defending champion Minot. Minot had a chance to win the tournament, but was disqualified in the 400 freestyle relay after Dagny Knutson started early. The result was a 40-point swing in Century's favor.

Knutson - the phenom and 2012 Olympic hopeful - still stole the show by setting two national high school records in the preliminaries. She also won the 100 freestyle and 200 individual medley, in which she finished nearly 15 seconds ahead of the next placer and broke her own state record.

Knutson ended her high school career with 16 state titles: 10 individual and six relays.

The Packers, meanwhile, finished in the top 10 in nine separate events.

Sophomore Paige Weisz grabbed the highest honor for West Fargo by placing third in the 100 yard breaststroke with a time of 1:09.58. She also was part of the seventh-place 200 medley relay team, along with Chelsea Gentzkow, Danica Dutt and Amy Doll.

West Fargo's next best event was in the 500 freestyle where Gentzkow placed fourth with a time of 5:23.46, Alyssa Olson finished eighth and Rachel Kranda grabbed 14th.

Other top-10 finishes were: Olson, eighth, 200 freestyle; Sam Gunning, eighth, and Dutt, 10th, 200 individual medley; Dutt, fifth, 100 butterfly; Gentzkow, sixth, 100 backstroke; 200 freestyle relay team of Ashley Kranda, Doll, Brianna Rortvedt and Olson, seventh; and 400 freestyle relay team of Olson, Ashley Kranda, Dutt, and Gentzkow, fifth.

Looking to next year, the Packers are going to lose some top seniors in Doll, Gentzkow and Ashley Kranda. In that respect, Gunning is going to be the lone senior, with a large group of underclassmen bringing up the rear.

Who knows? West Fargo may once again claim the EDC title if all that talent kicks it into high gear.

Tyler Shoberg is Sports Editor of the Pioneer and can be reached at 701-451-5717 or