FARGO -- Before the state championship match, Linton-HMB coach Jaime Richter told her team that win or lose, they'd all love each other, so they might as well go out and make a memory.
The Lions made a memory.
They wrapped up an undefeated season with a 27-25, 25-20, 26-24 sweep of Langdon Area-Edmore-Munich in the North Dakota Class B volleyball state championship match on Friday at the Fargodome.
With her daughter, JayCee, on the team, the coach has known this group going back to their youth competition. She coached many of them in Junior Olympic volleyball and says she’s known they could be something special going all the way back. But she never dared to imagine an undefeated state championship season.
“They’ve been like this since they were in fourth or fifth grade,” she said. “They are just fighters.
“Coming into this state tournament, they’ve been used to playing in championships when they were little. We were always in the championship games and I feel like that prepared them for this moment.”
Linton-HMB battled through a tight first set that featured 11 ties and squeaked to victory.
The Cardinals tied it up at 14, 15, 17 and 18 apiece, but each time the Lions answered back to maintain their lead. Morgan Freije finally gave Langdon a lead with three straight kills to go ahead 21-18. The Lions answered with a 3-0 run with an ace and a kill by Teegan Scherr.
The Cardinals and Lions traded points to tie the set at 24-24 and then 25-25. An ace by JayCee Richter pushed Linton ahead 26-25 and a Scherr kill claimed it.
“We knew that if we kept pushing hard enough, we could get those next two sets,” sophomore setter Gracie Schumacher said. “We just knew that we couldn’t get ahead of ourselves and think we were going to win every set. We had to take it one point at a time and that’s what we did.”
That first-set win set the tone for the Lions. They faced early deficits in each of the next two sets, but fought back each time.
They trailed 7-1 in the second set, but came back with a 10-2 run to jump out to a 23-17 lead. Scherr finished the second set in a row with a kill.
The Lions then trailed 4-1 to open the third. Linton and Langdon were tied six times in the set, but the Lions finished when it counted. Trailing 24-23, they rattled off three straight points and claimed the set and the state championship.
“I don’t know how many times this year we got close right at the end of the game and they found a way to win,” Jaime Richter said. “They dig down deeper when the game is closer. You could see it in all three sets. You could see it in their eyes, they were like ‘bring it on.’”
Scherr led the Lions with 20 kills, while JayCee Richter had nine and ShayLee Bosch had seven. Schumacher had a match-high 37 assists.
Langdon-EM was led by Cora Badding’s 13 kills and Lexis Olson’s 11. The Cardinals were seeking a repeat title and its fifth overall, dating back to 2003. Langdon-E-M finished the season at 22-3 and had its 19-match winning streak halted.
Linton-HMB won 25 straight matches to claim an unbeaten season that featured 23 sweeps. The Lions swept all three of their state tournament matches and lost only three sets all season. They haven’t lost a set in more than a month when they beat Flasher 3-1 on Oct. 16. Dickinson Trinity took the Lions to five sets back on Oct. 3.
“Not losing a set in the state tournament brought everyone’s confidence up,” Schumacher said. “We just thought, ‘We’re No. 1, we can do it.’”