Linton-HMB took care of that little technical detail on Friday with a 3-0 victory over Thompson in the semifinals of the North Dakota State Class B volleyball tournament at the Bismarck Event Center.
Led by play by All-Staters Teegan Scherr and JayCee Richter, the Lions avenged an earlier loss to the Thompson Tommies – one of two losses this season – in a rather easy way, 25-21, 25-18, 25- 18.
With the win, the Lions advance to Saturday’s title game against seed Northern Cass.
Scherr was particularly sharp with 12 kills and 18 digs, while Richter added eight kills, two aces and 12 of the Lions’ 77 digs.
“It was definitely the defense tonight,” Linton-HMB coach Jaime Richter said. “We just didn’t drop a ball on the ground. The girls were relentless.
Like all good heavyweight fights, the start was a process of feeling. Scherr said the Lions’ strategy was not to stay and move, but to hammer punches.
“The coach told us not to be frustrated and to keep hitting them,” Scherr said. “They’re playing a rotating defense, so they leave the middle box open. Otherwise, we just tried to bypass their blockers. Coach told us not to tip they are really good at tip digging so keep hitting and frustrating them.
Kim Gefroh opened the game with one of the Lions’ six aces. She and Richter had two each. The first game featured a series of long exchanges.
“These big rallies, I felt we took advantage of them,” said Jaime Richter. “I felt like we read balls really well and used all of our hitters.”
Linton-HMB was leading 16-13 when Thompson scored four straight runs to take a 17-16 lead on a Lions typing error.
Linton led 22-21 before ShayLee Bosch scored from a kill, followed by two more from Scherr to win the first set.
The second set was close until the Lions scored seven of eight points for some breathing space. A block from Gefroh made it 14-7 and the Tommies never came closer than four points the rest of the way.
At one point, the game got a bit sloppy as teams made three consecutive serve errors and the set actually ended with a Thompson serve error.
Gefroh and Richter’s aces in the third set helped the Lions away. Their biggest lead was 21-12, which helped the Lions withstand a short run late in the set. Linton-HMB’s last three points came on a Richter kill, a tip from Gracie Schumacher and a block from Bosch.
“Defense is important. Usually we don’t get a lot of blocks, but tonight we did, ”Scherr said.
None was bigger than ShayLee Bosch’s match-clincher in the third set. ShayLee Bosch had two blocks, Lacey Bosch had three and Gefroh led the way with four.
Libero Cassie Hase was solid on the defensive end with 20 digs.
Jaime Richter said it was a different walk to the brink of another title.
“Last year nobody knew us and nobody thought we could win because of our size,” said Richter. “This year everyone thought we would be good. This year we had to prove it.
Linton proved it last year by winning his first state title 27-25, 25-20 and 26-24 against Langdon Area-Edmore-Munich 3-0.
Thompson was looking for his sixth championship and his first since 2018. Instead, he will play for third place. The Tommies beat Linton-HMB 2-0 earlier this season.
“The difference was we knew how good their defense was. The first time we played them we were frustrated, ”said Richter. “This time we had long rallies together and the girls were mentally prepared.”
Mya Krogstad and Summer Hegg led Thompson with 10 kills each. Bailey Munson was one of five Thompson players with double-digit recoveries with 19. Krogstad added 15 and Brenna Martin got 2.5 blocks.