For the Our Redeemer's Christian School volleyball team, Tuesday night started with surprise and ended with triumph.
After watching Kenmare - seven-time defending region champions - fall to Bottineau, the Knights swept Velva (25-13, 25-22, 25-16) at the Minot Municipal Auditorium to advance to the Class B Region 6 championship.
ORCS started the match by scoring nine of set one's first 10 points, survived an error-plagued second game and used an 8-1 run in the final frame to end the Aggies' season.
Our Redeemer’s Christian School senior middle hitter Ashley Koppinger (14) spikes a ball past Velva middle blocker Emma Keller (1) as Knights eighth-grader Makayla Gartner (20) looks on.
"Right away, we came out and just were aggressive," Knights coach Sherry Carlson said. "That's what we needed. You can't come in afraid, afraid to lose. And so they didn't."
ORCS relied on junior Brooke Knutson and eighth-grader Morgan Olson (29 combined assists) to set up middle hitters Ashley Koppinger and Emily VanLith. The senior attackers had little problem turning these passes into kills. VanLith had nine and Koppinger had 13 to lead all players.
"The sets were there," Koppinger said. "When the sets are there it's easy to hit it."
The Knights, District 12's No. 2 seed, built a 23-14 second-game lead before having their longest stretch of mistakes. Velva, the No. 1 seed out of District 11, scored eight of nine points to crawl within 24-22.
Then, like so many times throughout the match, ORCS was just a little too much for Velva. The Knights found enough open space to end the set.
"What I saw happen on the floor was 'OK, right now. We're going to get this next one,' " Carlson said. "As soon as they said that ... it was over."
Bottineau's win means the Knights won't have to face Kenmare, a team that swept ORCS in the district tournament championship. It also means for the first time since 2004, the Honkers won't be going to state.
That year, the Knights won the region and advanced to the state championship game.
"Kenmare's always that monkey (on) our back," Carlson said. "Sometimes it's such a mental thing for us. I think them being eliminated, it removes that part ... As far as playing well, we're still going to have to bring our A-game and we're going to have to be focused and play each point."
ORCS has today to prepare for its next opponent. The Knights swept the Stars on Sept. 11.
"We just need to tweak a couple things in practice tomorrow and then we'll be ready to go," VanLith said.
Thursday's match starts at approximately 7:30 p.m.