Postseason push begins for Mustangs, Packers
It would be easy for the West Fargo Sheyenne volleyball team to cry foul over how the Eastern Dakota Conference volleyball tournament has been seeded.
Not only did the Mustangs have one fewer conference loss than Fargo Shanley during the regular season, they had little trouble with the Deacons in head-to-head matchups, beating them twice while dropping just one set in the process.
Yet somehow, the Mustangs find themselves looking up at Shanley in the rankings at this week's EDC Tournament. This comes virtue of the conference's two-point rule, in which a game between teams that play just once in a season have their matchup count for two games in the standings.
As a result, Sheyenne losses to Fargo Davies and Devil's Lake carried as much weight as Shanley losing twice to both the Mustangs and Davies. Shanley (16-4) locked up the No. 2 seed when Sheyenne (15-5) suffered a five-set home upset at the hands of West Fargo last Tuesday.
"That's the bummer about having two-point games," Mustang Coach Leah Newton said. "That's what's kind of put us in this position. But that's stuff we can't really focus on."
What Newton is hoping to focus on is cleaning up an assortment of mental and communication errors that allowed the Packers to rally from a 2-1 deficit for a 26-24, 16-25, 23-25, 25-21, 15-13 win in Sheyenne.
Another reason Newton says she isn't worried about seeding is that a highly competitive field is likely to make ever match a gruelling affair. While Davies easily captured the conference crown with a 20-0 record, Shanley, Sheyenne, Devil's Lake and Valley City were all within three games of each other in the standings.
And with only four slots available for the state tournament, Newton knows the intensity will only increase when the postseason begins.
"Ultimately, it comes down to who's playing the best in the EDC Tournament," Newton said. "You can come in at whatever seed you want but you still have to show up and play and win. No matter who we play it's going to be a tough match."
The first of those tough matches came at home Tuesday, when the streaking Packers visited for a rematch.
West Fargo, the No. 6 seed, began tournament play with a 25-13, 25-16, 25-20 sweep of Grand Forks Central in a play-in game Friday.
Seemingly on the outside looking in all season, the Packers, who won the EDC Tournament a season ago, got the signature win they were looking for with the comeback at Sheyenne.
"They haven't won many big games," Coach Kelsey Gibbons said after the regular season finale. "They don't know what that feels like. These are the types of things that are going to give us the confidence to get us to the big tournament. We should be confident going into postseason play."
A sophomore-heavy group that spent much of the season learning to play together says they will be, believing they announced themselves as a legit candidate to get the program to state for the fourth consecutive year.
"We're so comfortable with each other now," said outside hitter Erin Binstock, who scored the winning points in both the fourth and fifth sets at Sheyenne last week. "We know what our roles are and we know that we have each other's backs. We can bring it all the time through point one to the last point of set five."
Tuesday's EDC matchup between the Packers and Mustangs happened after the Pioneer went to press. A full recap is available at westfargopioneer.com