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The Honkers repeated as Region 6 champions for the fifth consecutive year on Thursday. Kenmare swept the Bottineau Stars 3-0 in the title match before a standing and cheering student section outfitted in maroon and gold and adorned with beads, sparkling gold wigs and a few scattered crowns to support senior hitter Katie King.
While most of the fans in the Minot Auditorium wanted to see the Honkers stay home from the Class B state tournament for a change, the Kenmare fans launched a “Go, Honkers, go!” cheer to start the match. Their team responded as King pounded down her first kill for the first point of the night.
Lexie Munson followed with a sweet tip that found its mark, but the Stars’ Whitney Page blocked Kortni Miller’s hit after the next serve to put Bottineau on the board. King, Erika Lemere and Halie Nelson responded with a few kills of their own, as well as an ace from King, another tip from Munson and a successful block by Miller, and suddenly the margin stood at 12-5 in the Honkers’ favor.
The two sides traded a few points, then Ashley Barnhart stepped back to serve. King reminded the Stars of her presence with another kill, then Barnhart scored on back-to-back aces and ran the score up to 17-7. Bottineau managed the occasional point, but the Honkers positioned King to score on another kill and four blocks.
The scoreboard read 22-15 as King rotated into the serve and reached set point on two aces. On the next volley, Barnhart leaped up for her trademark block at the net and pounded the ball to the Stars’ court for a 25-15 set win.
Bottineau came back ready for action in the second set. Although the Honkers scored first on a Page kill that dropped out of bounds, the Stars took a 5-3 lead. Nelson and Miller scored on kills, King served an ace and Miller made a block at the net to tie the score at 6, but Bottineau inched forward as two Honkers’ blocks dropped out of bounds and on kills by Kendra Suchor and Katryna Hahn.
Lemere, Barnhart and King scored on hits, but a Page kill gave the Stars a 13-11 lead at the media time-out. The Honkers’ crowd started up the “Go, Honkers, go!” cheer again, but two aces from Suchor gave the Stars a 16-11 lead. Fortunately, the Honkers rallied on a King kill, then a King tip with Munson at the serving line. In a repeat of the first set, King rotated into the serve. Miller pounded home a kill, then King scored on a pair of aces to pull Kenmare within one at 18-19.
Neither side gained a clear advantage through the next few serves until a block by Barnhart, followed by a kill from Barnhart energized the Honkers fans. Bottineau missed their next two kills, giving Kenmare a 24-20 advantage, but the Stars weren’t finished yet. With the Honkers at set point, Bottineau scored twice more on a kill and a Kenmare error, but Barnhart finally punctuated the 25-22 win with a definitive hit.
Buoyed by the comeback victory, the Honkers simply stormed the court in the third set, running up an 8-2 lead that included three aces from Munson and a kill by Miller. The margin stretched to 15-5 with an ace from King, kills from Lemere, Barnhart and King, and other Honker returns that the Stars just couldn’t handle.
With the score at 18-6 and the Kenmare crowd cheering wildly, senior Kiah Bauer entered the game and added three points on kills, along with hits from Nelson and Miller. The Stars tried to be competitive, but gave up set and match point when Page missed a hit. The Honkers claimed their fifth regional trophy and advanced to their fifth consecutive appearance in the Class B state tournament on that 25-14 win.
“It’s a good feeling to know we’re going [to the state tournament] our senior year,” Miller said. “Everyone was working together out there tonight.”
“Our intensity was pretty good,” agreed King.
The seniors acknowledged their weaker play in the second set. “We’re always bad in the second game,” Lemere joked.
“That means the crowd needs to cheer their loudest then,” Miller said.
KHS head coach Tim Wallstrum noted the team’s aggressive serving during the match. “Katie King did almost as much for us from the serving line as she did at the net,” he said, “and Lexie Munson served well.”
Wallstrum was also pleased with the team’s passing skills during the night, and while they missed some passes in the second set, the players combined their efforts to take control of the court again. “They play so well together, and when something goes wrong for one person, somebody else steps in,” he said.
He described one of Barnhart’s stuff blocks in the second set as an example. “That got us back on our feet,” he said. “Somebody always steps up and makes a big play.”
Assistant coach Faye Alexander praised the Honkers’ teamwork. “They’re all very strong players individually,” she said, “but if one has a bad night, the other ones pick it up. We coach that idea of being a team, but you can’t make them do it. They have to do it themselves.”
She was also pleased to see the players’ high intensity level. “They really got fired up for this tournament,” she said. “They came ready to play!”
While the phrase “Region 6 champions” sounds good, Wallstrum said the Honkers weren’t finished with the season yet. “When we first made it to the state tournament a few years ago, we were so excited to be there that we forgot to play sometimes,” he said. “Now, we know we’ve got the next steps to take, and it’s a long road yet. No matter what we do, we have to play our best.”
He also acknowledged the impact of the hometown crowd in an unfriendly environment. “It seems like Kenmare supports Kenmare,” he said, “and the rest are supporting everybody else.”
Several Honkers proved deadly at the net, with King making 11 kills, Barnhart 5, Miller 5 and Lemere 3.
King was credited with 2 blocks for the night, while Barnhart and Miller made 1 apiece.
Munson set up her teammates with 27 assists.
King scored 8 points on aces, with 3 from Munson and 2 by Barnhart.
In the back row, Miller made 8 digs, while Nelson had 7 and Lemere 6.
In the evening’s other action, Lewis & Clark topped Our Redeemer’s 3-0 for third place honors.
King, Nelson and Munson were named to the All-Region team for their efforts during the season. They were joined by Logyn Bloms of Lewis & Clark, Whitney Page and Heidi Artz of Bottineau, Sarah Christopher, Ashley Koppinger and Mataya Grigsby of Our Redeemer’s, Meghan Lavachek of Glenburn, Chelsy Klein of Bishop Ryan, Brittany Berndt of Velva and Crystal Hovland of Rugby.
King was also selected as the Region 6 Athlete of the Year and will compete for the title of 2010 Miss Volleyball.
The Honkers will open the 2010 Class B state volleyball tournament Thursday, November 18th, against Region 7 champion Beach at 12 noon in the Minot State University Dome.
Other opening round matches will feature Region 4 Langdon against Region 5 New Salem at 2 pm, Region 2 Park River-Fordville-Lankin against Region 3 Linton-HMB at 6 pm, and Region 1 Central Cass against Region 8 Stanley at 8 pm.
State tournament action continues Friday with the consolation semifinals played at 12 noon and 2 pm, and the championship semifinals at 6 and 8 pm.
In Class B matches on Saturday, the 7th place match will be played at 10 am, the consolation championship at 12 noon, and the third place match at 2 pm. The title match will take place at 8 pm, following the Class A championship match.
Honkers battle Knights
in semi-finals round
The Kenmare-Our Redeemer’s match in the regional semi-finals round on November 9th proved to be a test for the Honkers. The Knights were looking for a win against Kenmare and managed to take one set, but the Honkers prevailed 3-1.
Kenmare rolled through the first set 25-12, running up a 12-4 lead on hits from Nelson, King, Barnhart and Munson, with two aces served by Miller. The Knights tried to stop the Honkers’ momentum by calling a time-out, but Kenmare came right back with a kill by Miller and a block-hit-block scoring run by King to go up 18-9. Our Redeemer’s provided a challenge and several volleys were played out, but the Honkers generally found the advantage and rolled to the win in 15 minutes by forcing errors on the other side of the net and scoring points from Miller and Lemere.
The second set was a different story. The Honkers scored the first two points, then watched as Our Redeemer’s ran up an 8-2 lead with kills and blocks from Mataya Grigsby and Alyssa Tonneson. Nelson managed a third point for Kenmare on a tip, but the Knights were off and running again for a 12-4 margin on a Grigsby hit and several Kenmare errors.
The Honkers tried to rally, scoring on a pair of kills and an ace by Lemere and big hits by King and Barnhart. Kenmare pulled within three at 17-20, but Sarah Christopher and Ashley Koppinger were hitting well for the Knights by that point and continued to score. Our Redeemer’s took the set on an ace served by Koppinger, defeating Kenmare 25-19.
The two sides played a tight game in the third set, tying at nearly every point. Everyone contributed on the Honkers’ side of the net, with King, Miller, Lemere and Nelson making kills, and Barnhart going up for big blocks and even serving an ace. Koppinger was a force for the Knights, scoring on 7 kills, with two more points from Christopher’s blocking ability.
The crowd was treated to several intense volleys as players dug up powerful hits and keeping the ball in play. Kenmare finally managed an 18-14 advantage on a kill by King, followed by a King ace and back-to-back hits by Barnhart and Nelson. The team demonstrated their patience and confidence on the court, backing each other up on digs and passes. However, sophomore hitter Amily VanLith entered the game for Our Redeemer’s and immediately struck with a pair of kills, followed by three Honkers missing hits, and the score reversed to 20-18 in the Knights’ favor.
The strong momentum on the Knights’ side of the court was stopped cold by a pair of Nelson kills to tie the game again. In front of a Honkers’ cheering section standing on their feet, King scored on a pair of hits for a 23-21 margin. A Knights’ hit dropped out of bounds to give Kenmare set point. Grigsby bumped up Our Redeemer’s score, but the Knights floundered on their next kill attempt and the Honkers claimed the set 25-22.
Grigsby, Koppinger and Christopher combined for a valiant effort on offense in the fourth set, but the Honkers could taste victory. King put the first point on the board for Kenmare, then added two more kills and a block for early points. Lemere chipped in with a hit and Barnhart scored three in a row to keep the Honkers up 11-10.
At that point, the Knights seemed to run out of steam. King scored on a tip and a block just before the media time-out. When Kenmare returned to the court, Nelson came up with two big hits and the Honkers stopped Koppinger with a block for a 16-10 margin. Kenmare just kept rolling, with points from all quarters as King made a hit, Nelson slammed an ace, Lemere put down a kill and then made a strategic tip, and Miller and Barnhart combined for a block.
By the time the Honkers scored the final point to take the set and match at 26-16, the fans were roaring from their courtside seats. The two teams followed the Knights’ tradition and prayed together at the net before Kenmare started celebrating.
“In that second set, we made a lot of errors in a row and we ended up getting behind,” Wallstrum said. “We can lose our concentration a little. We won the first one so easily and then you tend to sit back on your heels a little.”
He praised the Knights for giving the Honkers such a challenging match. “I have tremendous respect for those girls,” he said, adding that several of the players wished the Honkers team well after the match. “They handle themselves with such class, and they’re good athletes.”
King admitted she was nervous before the match, and she wasn’t surprised at the outcome of the second set. “We got in this mode where we weren’t doing too hot,” she said. “We dug ourselves in a hole and got down by 12, and that’s not how we usually play. They gave us good competition. We knew they wanted it.”
Lemere pointed to new bruises on her knees. “We decided to get jacked and play how we needed to play,” she said, adding that the team returned to its usual intense focus on the court.
The two seniors agreed the Honkers came together to win the match. “We read each other more than most teams do, and we have no drama,” Lemere said.
“We help each other on the floor,” added King.
The pair laughed about the diverse scoring tactics they used to confuse the Knights’ defense. “Katie’s talented enough to hit the ball to a hole,” Lemere said, “but I tip it to a hole.”
For the night, King finished with 20 kills. Nelson made 10, Lemere 8 and Barnhart 6.
The Honkers’ blocking game was also strong, with 7 from King and 5 by Barnhart.
Munson set up her teammates with 40 assists, while King made 2 at key points in the match.
Miller served 2 aces, with 1 apiece from Barnhart and Nelson.
In the back row, Munson and Lemere each came up 8 digs, while Miller notched 7.
In the tournament’s other semi-finals match, Bottineau trumped Lewis & Clark 3-1.