BISMARCK — The premier local rivalry in high school volleyball still resides in the MAAA Small-School division, and defending champion Bismarck remains the team to beat after facing a stern challenge on Thursday night.
The Lady Indians met constant resistance at the net from the prolific Valle blocking corps, but overcame an erratic opening game to prevail 19-25, 25-19, 25-17 for sole possession of first place in the conference standings.
All-state performer Brooke Taylor stepped to the forefront with a barrage of punishing kills down the stretch, as Bismarck notched 10 of the final 12 points following a 15-15 deadlock in game three.
Taylor finished with 20 kills and 18 digs, and Harley Cadwell contributed 10 kills plus 11 digs for Bismarck (19-3). Balee Lorenz compiled 27 assists and Megan Counts added eight digs.
Valle (8-6) surged ahead early behind two emphatic stuffs from seniors Abbie Bergtholdt and Hannah Kuenzel. Bergtholdt also connected for a pair of kills during an opening 10-2 spurt in game one.
Bismarck earned seven straight points to quickly erase that margin, and pulled even at 13-13 when Counts knocked down a cross-court attack, but strong serving helped the Lady Warriors regain the momentum.
Kuenzel, who paced Valle behind the line with 14 points, handcuffed the Bismarck rotation multiple times for aces, then induced an overpass that teammate Alli Dalton hammered to the floor.
Freshman Gretchen Koller brought up game point for the Lady Warriors with a left-side smash, and Bismarck was forced to regroup after allowing an ensuing free ball to fall harmlessly between four players.
Game two featured several quality rallies which Bismarck claimed the majority of with superb defense. Cadwell ended an digging exchange off a back-set from Lorenz, and spiked two more kills for a 14-11 advantage.
Valle scored with a block from Dalton after Koller and Kuenzel made sprawling digs, but the host club remained in control, holding a 20-13 lead following an ace from freshman Chandler Politte.
Bismarck focused its attack around Taylor from there, resulting in 10 individual kills during the final stanza. Her stuff-block at 17-15 sparked the decisive run after the Lady Warriors erased a seven-point deficit.
Dalton matched Bergtholdt with six kills each, and tallied 13 assists overall. Kuenzel led Valle with 18 digs while Koller and Natalie Grass both tallied 11. Koller made 21 serve receptions and five kills.
The Lady Indians improved to 5-0 in league play, and are riding a current 15-match win streak. Valle will host the rematch on October 13.