BISMARCK — Valle Catholic had very little time to prepare for its Class 1, District 5 championship opponent after New Haven pulled a semifinal upset over tournament host Bismarck on Wednesday night.
But a conscious effort to attack taller blockers from the outside positions paid dividends in the early going, and the Lady Warriors won several rallies when tested along the back row for a 25-18, 25-21 victory.
Gretchen Koller spiked eight kills and Kylie Meyer knocked down five more for unbeaten Valle (32-0). Both seniors connected for three kills during their respective opening rotations along the front row.
Whitley Bieser distributed a team-high 11 assists against a 3rd-seeded New Haven club that controlled the middle of the net to topple Bismarck.
“We went into the match not knowing exactly how they played,” Bieser said. “We saw them a little against Bismarck earlier, and noticed how they play a defense similar to ours. So we decided to attack on the outside and it seemed to work.”
New Haven (20-11-3) also featured a balanced offense with Katie Peirick, Taylor Covington and Emily Kallmeyer notching four kills each.
Junior Rachel Steinhoff made seven digs for the Shamrocks, who kept pace early behind some successful off-speed hitting.
Valle jumped ahead 13-9 in game one on consecutive kills from Mackenzie Wipfler and Taylor Oberle, and stretched the margin to 18-11 after coaxing New Haven into a flurry of passing miscues.
Koller answered three straight kills from the Shamrocks with a key swing in the middle, and a 5-0 scoring streak for Valle was capped when a remarkable corner dig by senior libero Katie Bader extended a lengthy point.
Kallmeyer ended another exciting rally in New Haven’s favor after Steinhoff traded floor digs with Valle’s Sydnie Weiler. The Shamrocks turned a positive start to game two into a 7-5 lead.
The Lady Warriors flipped the momentum into a 14-11 advantage on two right-side kills by Oberle. Their defense dominated from there, as numerous strong attacks from New Haven were kept alive.
A tough jump-serve by Bader created an overpass kill for Koller, and Kamrie Meyer converted a second chance following a block to create a 20-13 margin.
Valle Catholic captured its third consecutive district title, and now stands two wins away from a third straight trip to the Class 1 final four.
“This group has been playing together since we were little, and we have a chance to do something special,” Kylie Meyer said. “We’re really focused on just trying to play our best in every game.
Bader served seven points and Kamrie Meyer made 11 receptions for the Lady Warriors. They shared a team high of nine digs with Weiler.
Winona (26-7-1) presents another stern challenge for Valle in Saturday’s sectional round. The District 7 winner, either Sacred Heart or Stover, will host that contest along with the subsequent quarterfinal match.
Kylie Meyer served 10 points with three aces, and Koller provided four blocks including two solo during an earlier 25-9, 25-11 rout of Chamois.
Wipfler paced Valle with six kills and Kamrie Meyer added five. Kylie Meyer recorded nine digs and Sydnie Weiler made seven assists.
The Lady Warriors separated from a 5-5 tie in game one by scoring nine of the next 10 points. A Koller stuff gave them a 17-6 lead in game two.
Chamois was limited to seven kills overall, getting four from Miranda Brandt.