THOMPSON, N.D. -- Taylor Zak, Izzy Shirek and Carrie Nistler combined for 830 kills last season. That was more than half the kills accumulated by Thompson.
When the trio graduated last spring, that left a big offensive void for the Tommies team that won the North Dakota Class B state high school volleyball tournament in 2018.
“Wow, that’s a lot of kills,’’ junior setter Kenzie Hughes said. “Coming into this season, we knew that was something we had to replace. We knew it would be tough. Those three were outstanding hitters. But we knew we could do it.’’
To replace the hitters, Thompson coach Lisa Strand turned to the setters.
Three of the team’s top five hitters, Hughes, Jordyn Bohlman and Lexi Telehey, either currently set or have done so in the past two seasons. They’ve helped the Tommies to a 25-5-1 record and a third consecutive trip to the Class B state tournament.
The fourth-seeded Tommies play No. 5 Fargo Oak Grove in a 7 p.m. quarterfinal match Thursday at the Fargodome.
Returning hitting regulars Macy Jordheim and Allie Ness pace the offense with 321 and 172 kills, respectively. Behind them are Hughes (166), Telehey (147) and Bohlman (91).
Hughes plays right outside hitter when not setting in the Tommies’ 6-2 offense. Telehey didn’t play varsity last season; she was a setter/hitter on Thompson’s junior varsity team. Bohlman, a senior, was a varsity setter as a freshman and sophomore before switching to right side hitter last season.
That’s a lot of kills from setters past and present.
“We’ve had setters who could hit before,'' Thompson coach Lisa Strand said. "But they usually haven’t been as dominant (in the hitting department) as these girls have been. They’re definitely impact players.’’
That reliance on setters and ex-setters to terminate the ball has worked for a few reasons.
One, Strand said, is that as setters who run an offense, Hughes, Bohlman and Telehey know the game well.
Another factor is the athleticism of the trio.
“All three of them are good jumpers,’’ Strand said. “They have good verticals and they’re quick. And they’re smart players. They aren’t constantly trying to kill the ball. They can hit hard, but they also tip and place shots. They keep defenses on their toes.’’
They aren’t a towering presence at the net. Bohlman and Telehey both stand 5-foot-6. Hughes is an inch shorter. But the lack of height hasn’t been a hindrance, at least not as attackers.
“Because of our size -- we’re usually a lot shorter than other teams -- it’s harder blocking,’’ Hughes said. “All three of us know how to deliver shots. We all have a lot of power and we like to switch up our hits.’’
It also helps to have a middle hitter like Jordheim, who has 980 career kills and an earned reputation that attracts blockers. Thompson uses her as a decoy as well as a finisher.
“Macy is a fantastic hitter,’’ Strand said. “She draws blockers. That opens things up for our other hitters. And we feel our outside hitters usually will win those one-on-one battles.’’
The Tommies have a go-to hitter in Jordheim. But success is a result of balance and hitting depth -- something that was an unknown at the start of the season.
“We knew Macy and Allie could terminate,’’ Strand said. “After that, we didn’t know who we’d go to. We’ve been fortunate to have those girls really step it up.’’
Thompson volleyball at a glance
Coach -- Lisa Strand.
Record -- 25-5-1, Region 2 champion.
Class B state tournament opener -- The Tommies, seeded fourth, play No. 5 Fargo Oak Grove at 7 p.m. Thursday in a state quarterfinal match at the Fargodome.
Recent state tournament history -- The Tommies are making their third consecutive state tournament appearance and are defending champions. Thompson has won five state titles. This is the program’s 15th state tournament appearance.
Regular rotation (kills-blocks-service aces-digs) -- Sr. MH Macy Jordheim (321-59-25-50), jr. MH Jada Welke (73-16-0-8), sr. LIB Lauren Cunningham (6-0-52-297), sr. OH Allie Ness (172-0-14-70), soph. DS Bailey Munson (4-0-12-114), jr. OH Lexi Telehey (147-13-1-41), sr. DS Ashlyn Warcken (13-0-18-158), jr. S/RH Kenzie Hughes (166-15-31-95, 491 assists), sr. RH Jordyn Bohlman (91-13-0-30), sr. S Kaia Sorby (17-0-29-56, 376 assists).