FARGO — Nicole Schmitz of Oakes was named Class B senior volleyball player of the year Saturday, Nov. 23. Her coach, Shari Christenson, was selected coach of the year.
None of those individual honors mattered to Langdon-Edmore-Munich’s Callie Ronningen, herself a finalist for the senior player of the year award, nor to her teammates.
“We got the state championship. That’s all we cared about,’’ Ronningen said. “We’ve been working so hard for it. It’s so surreal right now; we actually did it.’’
The third-seeded Cardinals captured the program’s fourth state championship by beating No. 1 Oakes 3-1 in the title match. Langdon-E-M won 25-10, 19-25, 25-21, 25-19 for its first state championship since 2010.
Langdon-Edmore-Munich won with balance and defense.
Schmitz, arguably the hardest hitter in Class B, had a match-high 17 kills. But no other Tornadoes player had more than three.
“She’s the most powerful hitter in Class B I’ve seen for awhile,’’ L-E-M coach Rich Olson said.
Langdon-E-M countered that with the trio of Ronningen, Lexi Olson and Morgan Freije getting 12 kills apiece. Cora Badding added seven as the Cardinals held a 41-29 kill advantage.
“It’s all about team,’’ Lexi Olson said. “We can all put down shots. And we were all on tonight.’’
Christenson said that balance made the Cardinals hard to defend.
“It was the difference,’’ she said. “We had to honor so many hitters. Their setter (Calyn Crockett, 31 assists) did a good job of distributing the ball, getting them in one-on-one situations. It’s tough to block in those.’’
“We had five big hitters, so many who contributed. That’s why we won,’’ Ronningen added.
Defensively, Langdon-E-M and Oakes each had five stuff blocks. Langdon-E-M held a slight 106-99 advantage in digs. Lexi Olson led the Cardinals defense with 23 digs. She was one of six L-E-M players to reach double digits in digs.
But there was more to the defense than numbers.
“Our focus was putting up good blocks,’’ Rich Olson said. “We needed to get hands on all their shots. We didn’t have a lot of stuff blocks. But we were there all night, getting deflections. And we did a good job of digging. I thought we really made Oakes work for its points.’’
Just as Langdon-E-M had balance in its attack, so did the Cardinals share the spotlight in big moments.
In the third set, after L-E-M took an 18-12 lead, Oakes pulled back to within four points twice, only to see Lexi Olson put down a kill. The Tornadoes rallied again to within 21-19, only to see Olson again get a kill to start a 3-0 run.
In the fourth set, Freije had five points (three kills, a block and a service ace) as Langdon-E-M jumped to an 11-7 lead that it never relinquished. After Oakes pulled to within 18-16, Lexi Olson had back-to-back kills to start a 6-0 run. Kaylee Lowery had two service aces in the run.
“I like those pressure spots,’’ Olson said. “I feel I feed off that.’’
“Lexi was excellent in those spots. But everybody was making big plays,’’ Rich Olson added.
For Langdon-Edmore-Munich, the timing was right.
“I was hoping we could peak at the right time, to not be content with how we were playing,’’ Rich Olson said. “And over the last three to four weeks, down the home stretch, these girls kept working and getting better. They never put it in cruise control.’’