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Thompson uses 11-player rotation to get to state volleyball tournament

Taylor Zak, Thompson, 2017 photo1 / 2
Taylor Zak, Thompson, 2017 photo2 / 2

THOMPSON, N.D.—Lucy Sutter-Hegg doesn't wear a jersey for the Thompson volleyball team. She's never played a point in a varsity match. But she plays a key role in the Tommies' success.

Sutter-Hegg is the team statistician. And in the hectic pace that is Thompson volleyball, she's in charge of keeping track of the number of substitutions made in a set.

"Lucy's the one who lets us know where we're at as far as number of substitutions,'' Tommies coach Lisa Strand said. "We're always asking her, 'Lucy, how many is that?' Sometimes she just tells us without being asked. You have to stay on top of where we're at in the rotation.''

Excluding the libero, teams are allowed 18 substitutions in a set. Since Allie Ness joined the rotation in mid-October, Thompson uses 11 players on a regular basis. On almost every sideout, it is one, two, or three if the libero is entering, going in and the subsequent number of players going out.

The formula has worked. Thompson takes a 32-6 record and the No. 3 seed into Thursday's Class B state tournament quarterfinals at the Fargodome.

An 11-player rotation is a high number. Strand said her team usually uses eight or nine players on a regular basis. "Normally, if I'm using 10 players, I'm thinking that's a lot,'' she said.

But quality depth has led to specialization. Only three players, Taylor Zak (421), Macy Jordheim (279) and Izzy Shirek (180), have more than 100 kills. Only four players, Mackenzie Hughes (304), Ashlyn Warcken (285), Zak (252) and Allie Ivesdal (249), have more than 100 digs.

"We want to make use of everyone's talents,'' Strand said. "We have girls who can make plays in the back row. We have girls who make plays at the net.

"We do have some good all-around players. But this is taking advantage of all the talents of all the kids. It's what team is all about. If you have 15 kids on a roster and they all can play, why not use them?''

The one constant is Zak, who plays every rotation and rarely is off the court. "Taylor is a solid back-row player, she's a good passer and I think she's one of the best players in the state at the net,'' Strand said.

Otherwise, it is paying attention on the bench lest you forget to enter at your designated spot.

"Sometimes we've had to tap somebody on the shoulder to remind them they're going in,'' senior Kailen Dolleslager said. "But we've used rotations all year so we've gotten used to it.

"I think it's worked out great. Everybody on the team is utilized.''

Thompson has yet to used more than 16 substitutions in a set. Strand said that in a high-scoring set, she worries about capping out on substitutions.

"If you hit 18, whoever is on the court, that's who stays on the court,'' Strand said. "So you could wind up with a small defensive specialist playing at middle hitter.''

Sutter-Hegg has done her part to keep coaches informed and avoid that situation.

Thompson at a glance

Coach: Lisa Strand.

Record: 32-6, Region 2 champion..

State tournament opener: The Tommies, seeded third, play unseeded Bismarck Shiloh Christian (31-5) at 3 p.m. Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Class B state tournament at the Fargodome.

Tommies' regular rotation (kills-blocks-service aces-digs): Jr. MH Taylor Zak 427-107-17-252, sr. OH Kailen Dolleslager 94-11-18-41, soph. MH Macy Jordheim 279-38-0-8, jr. OH Carrie Nistler 96-13-54-30, soph. OH/DS Ashlyn Warcken 54-3-53-285, soph. S Kaia Sorby 6-1-1-51 (440 assists), soph. S Jordyn Bohlman 8-7-0-62 (586 assists), jr. L Allie Ivesdal 15-0-49-249, jr. OH Izzy Shirek 180-7-1-44, fr. DS Mackenzie Hughes 3-0-69-304, soph. OH Alli Ness 29-1-0-9