Posted 11/17/15 (Tue)
By Jody Michael
District 16 champion Ray downed District 15 champion Watford City in a five-set thriller (25-21, 16-25, 9-25, 25-23, 15-8) at Ray High School on Thursday to advance to the program’s ninth state tournament. The Jays (22-15) meet No. 1 seed Our Redeemer’s (40-2) Thursday evening at 6 p.m. at Minot State.
“I’m proud of my girls,” Ray head coach Michelle Dolan said. “They just had faith that working together was going to pull it off, and it did.”
The Jays used double-doubles from junior Marissa Veach (19 kills, 30 digs) and seniors Hayden Slikker (12 kills, 21 digs) and Allison Ziebarth (23 assists, 21 digs) to propel a comeback after Watford City went up 2-1 in the match. Ray gutted out set four, 25-23, to force a fifth and took a 15-8 decision in the final frame to advance to a second consecutive state tourney.
“I said, ‘You’re going to have to play tough the whole match and fight for every point,’ and we managed to do it,” Michelle Dolan said. “They’ve been a team that just doesn’t die.”
Everyone on the floor for Ray had a role in stifling the Wolves attack, as juniors Maari Dolan (30) and Kelsey Perdue (25) and sophomore Britne Viall (13) joined Veach, Slikker and Ziebarth in double-digit digs.
“We’re not the tallest team, we’re not the best blockers,” Michelle Dolan said, “so we kind of hang our hat on defense.”
The win was the Jays’ eighth straight victory, their longest streak this season.
Ray jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead to open the first set, but three Ricki Lindley kills let Watford City back into the match, and a 5-0 run later gave the Wolves their first lead at 14-13. The teams traded points until Slikker’s third turn serving led to six consecutive Ray points, ending with two kills by Maari Dolan and one by Veach to give the Jays the first set, 25-21.
The Jays took a quick lead once again in the second set, as a pair of Veach kills and some Watford City errors made it 6-0 Ray. However, the Wolves stormed back to tie it at 8, and a Katie Mogen ace and kills by Lindley and Alli Mogen lifted Watford City ahead 12-9. Ray pushed back, pulling to 14-13 and 18-16, but seven straight points by Watford City finished it off down the stretch for a 25-16 victory to tie the match at one set apiece.
Ray would once again take the first lead of the third set, going ahead 1-0 on a service error by Brea Jore. The Jays’ advantage didn’t last, as a 20-2 Watford City run later made it 23-5 Wolves. Lindley and Mackenzie Sparby each crushed a kill to close out the set and give the Wolves the match lead, 25-9.
Jore served up a 5-0 run to give the Wolves a 13-12 lead early in the fourth set, but Ray was able to recover and keep the score even. A Maari Dolan free ball that landed in an open area of the Wolves’ court put Ray up 23-21, and despite the ensuing Slikker attack error and Katie Mogen kill, Jore then erred on her next serve, and Slikker sent the match to a fifth frame with a set-point ace for a 25-23 win.
Two Slikker aces and two Veach kills helped put Ray ahead 7-1 in the fifth set, and a handful of attack errors by the Wolves increased the advantage to an overwhelming 13-5. However, Watford City didn’t give up and fought back to close the gap to 13-8 off of three Lindley kills. A kill by Slikker put Ray at match point, 14-8, and she then sealed the match in the next rally with a dump that landed in-bounds to end the contest in the Jays’ favor, 15-8.
“They amaze me sometimes,” Michelle Dolan said.
In the region semifinal Nov. 10, the Jays used a total team effort, including a team-leading 18 kills from Veach (Slikker added 17) and 15 or more digs from all six Ray players, to weather the Powers Lake Ranchers 3-1. After the Jays and Ranchers had respectively took the first and second sets, Ray won the next two 25-15, 25-22.
An upset win Thursday evening against Our Redeemer’s would earn Ray its fourth state semifinal berth in program history. Ray last advanced to the state semifinals in 2005.
The Jays have faced Our Redeemer’s twice this season, both shutout losses: 25-15, 25-14 on Aug. 29 in Hazen; and 25-16, 25-14, 25-8 on Oct. 19 in Minot. The meeting will also be a rematch of last year’s state quarterfinal in which the Knights prevailed 25-11, 25-12, 25-13.
Region 8 awards
Coach of the year: Michelle Dolan, Ray
Senior athlete of the year: Kinzi Grubb, Powers Lake
Kenmare: Halley Bartlett
Powers Lake: Kinzi Grubb, Grace Hove, Sadie Maruskie
Ray: Kelsey Perdue, Hayden Slikker, Marissa Veach
Stanley: Lacey Meiers
Trenton: Maycie Brunelle
Watford City: Ricki Lindley, Alli Mogen, Katie Mogen
G1: Langdon-Munich (40-2) vs. Hazen (29-10), noon
G2: Hankinson (32-3) vs. Shiloh Christian (32-5), 2 p.m.
G3: Our Redeemer’s (40-2) vs. Ray (22-15), 6 p.m.
G4: LaMoure (35-2) vs. Finley-Sharon-Hope-Page (33-5), 8 p.m.
G5: G1 loser vs. G2 loser, noon
G6: G3 loser vs. G4 loser, 2 p.m.
G7: G1 winner vs. G2 winner, 6 p.m.
G8: G3 winner vs. G4 winner, 8 p.m.
Seventh-place: G5 loser vs. G6 loser, 10 a.m.
Fifth-place: G5 winner vs. G6 winner, noon
Third-place: G7 loser vs. G8 loser, 2 p.m.
Championship: G7 winner vs. G8 winner, 6 p.m.