The Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood volleyball team accomplished two feats with junior outside hitter Callie Carlson's final swing Thursday. The Mavericks avenged their loss in the District 12 title game against Bishop Ryan and advanced to state for the first time in program history.
It took 203 points before M-L-S and its nine seniors got to live the dream they had imagined at the beginning of the season.
A second after Carlson's 16th kill hit the hardwood, the Mavericks and their fans swarmed the court to celebrate a five-set thriller in the Region 6 championship match at the Minot Municipal Auditorium.
Members of the Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood volleyball team celebrate as fans rush the court following the Region 6 championship match against Bishop Ryan on Thursday at the Minot Municipal Auditorium.
"It's an unbelievable dream come true," senior middle blocker Alex Mott said. "We've been working hard these four years. We've been together for so long and we finally accomplished our dream and it feels amazing."
The Mavericks won the opening two sets before Ryan stormed back to force a fifth game. M-L-S led early in the tiebreaker and held on for a 25-18, 25-20, 20-25, 19-25, 15-11 victory.
M-L-S jumped out to a 9-3 lead in the fifth set with four Carlson kills and two by Mott. Ryan made one final push with 6-foot-2 junior middle blockers Hannah Stewart and Gabbie Bohl, cutting the Mavericks' advantage to 12-10. Another kill by Carlson and one from senior middle blocker Shelbi Bahl set up match point. The Mavericks claimed their first region crown on the next point.
"We were getting a little nervous there in game five, but my girls wanted it," M-L-S coach Culynn Solloway said. "Both teams knew it was going to be up to who wanted it more."
In a match that followed the same formula as the district championship only with reversed roles, the Mavericks took advantage of Ryan miscues and leaned on their nine seniors to take a 2-0 set lead. Mott recorded four kills in the opening set and senior Sierra Smith tallied back-to-back kills to give the Mavericks set point. M-L-S trailed 16-14 before winning 11 of the final 13 points.
Carlson, Mott and Smith combined for 36 kills.
"It's probably the best feeling I've ever had," Smith said. "I've never felt like this. We wanted it so bad and it's just an amazing accomplishment for us."
The Lions again held a late lead in the second set, only to see M-L-S come back. Three straight blocks - two by Ryan senior Anika Rovig and one by Bohl - put the Lions up 18-14, but the Mavericks responded with an 8-1 run. M-L-S won the second game on three straight unforced errors by Ryan.
Ryan didn't let its lead slip away in the third and fourth sets. With their backs to the wall, the Lions minimized their mistakes and went to Stewart and Bohl for offense. The tandem recorded eight kills in the third and seven in the fourth to force a fifth set.
"It was a little nerve-recking, that's for sure," M-L-S senior setter Shania Brackenbury said. "(Ryan) came back and had the momentum so we just knew we had to come out stronger."
Brackenbury finished with a match-high 39 assists and recorded three aces.
Prior to the championship match, Our Redeemer's Christian School claimed third place in a four-set victory against Des Lacs-Burlington. Freshmen Makayla Gartner and Morgan Olson recorded 16 and 14 kills, respectively.
Mike Kraft covers high school athletics, the Minot State University men's club hockey team and the Minot Minotauros. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.