After a seven-year drought, the Our Redeemer's Christian School volleyball team captured its goal of winning the Region 6 tournament and qualifying for state.
Led by all-state senior outside hitter Ashley Koppinger, the Knights swept Bottineau in the region championship to earn a spot in the state tournament, a spot dominated by Kenmare for the last seven seasons.
Koppinger - both the District 12 and Region 6 senior athlete of the year - overwhelmed opponents with her near-unreturnable spike and knuckleball-like serve. The five-year starter recorded 589 kills, 359 digs, 110 blocks and 93 aces for the Knights.
Although ORCS couldn't relive its 2004 success when the Knights finished as Class B runner's-up at state, ORCS captured the consolation championship and ended the season on a two-game winning streak. As a result of her success on the court, Koppinger was named The Minot Daily News' all-area player of the year.
Koppinger isn't the lone Knight to appear on the all-area team as senior middle hitter Emily VanLith garnered second-team honors. VanLith - ORCS' tallest player at 5-foot-9 - created a wall in front of the net with Koppinger, making life difficult for opposing hitters. VanLith recorded the match-ending ace against Bottineau to send the Knights to state.
A successful team needs a good coach, and that is what the Knights had in Sherry Carlson. The Knights finished 30-10-4 under Carlson, who was named the coach of the year for both District 12 and Region 6. By leading a team that featured just three seniors to state, Carlson got the nod as The Minot Daily News' all-area coach of the year.
Ray senior middle hitter Kendra Heier helped the Jays make the state tournament and earned first-team all-area honors. In addition to making the all-state team, Heier was named senior athlete of the year for District 16 and Region 8. She amassed 529 digs, 321 kills and 93 aces for the Jays.
Stanley junior middle hitter Chai Pappa - playing in her first season without older sister Jasmin - was a first-team all-area selection as well as an all-state pick, finishing with 379 kills, 223 digs, 116 aces and 97 blocks.
Kenmare may not have qualified for state for the first time since 2004, but senior setter Lexie Munson and senior outside Shelby Hass had great seasons for the Honkers. Munson finished with 3,637 career assists after compiling 629 this season. She also added 316 kills, 169 digs and 75 aces and appears as a first-team all-area pick. Hass - an all-region and all-district choice - finished with 355 kills, 273 digs and 75 aces and joins her teammate on the MDN's all-area first team.
Rounding out the first team are Hazen senior setter Rachael Hansana and Beulah junior setter Lakin Kessler, both all-state selections.
Bottineau had a pair of Stars make the second-team all-area squad. Junior middle hitter Katryna Hahn and junior setter Bailey Neubauer were instrumental in the Stars' upset victory over Kenmare in the Region 6 semifinal. Hahn was named all-district and all-region and was chosen as the team's MVP. She compiled 384 kills, 218 digs and 70 blocks. Neubauer had an astonishing 866 assists and added 165 digs and 89 aces.
Bishop Ryan sophomore middle hitter Gabbie Bohl, Velva outside hitter Katelyn Sandy and Carrington junior middle hitter Madison Wendel round out the second team.
The three at-large selections are Bishop Ryan's Hannah Stewart, Drake-Anamoose's Rachel Handeland and Minot High School's Alex Bolinske.
Mike Kraft covers Class B sports for the Minot Daily News and spearheaded the MDN's selection of its all-area volleyball team. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.