Grand Forks Central was able to fend off Grand Forks Red River on Tuesday night, winning its first volleyball match of the season by taking three out of four sets. The Knights won 14-25, 25-14, 25-22, 25-23.
Coming into the match, Central had been swept in all three of its EDC matches and the same could be said for Red River until the Riders were able to sweep Devils Lake last week.
The Roughriders were able to get out to the early lead with everyone on the court contributing to some impressive and acrobatic volleys. After some back and forth by both sides, outside hitter Hannah Litzinger came up with some powerful strikes to give Red River a comfortable opening set lead.
Quickly the Roughriders were able to take set one 25-14. Ava Swangstue and Cynara Rydell commanded a strong handle of the net, coming up with key blocks that would remain a theme throughout the match.
“For some reason, I don’t know why, we can’t get going at the start,” Central coach Kari Hearn said. “I don’t know what it is but we’ve been starting slow and then we progress as we go on.”
Set two presented a little more edge to the Knights' game, as high velocity kills came one after another. Pulling out to a 14-4 lead, Central cleaned up the errors that plagued the Knight in the previous set. As a result, the Roughriders had trouble setting up their offense.
The tables turned inside as well. Central middle hitter Jasmine Thomas was in control of the net this time around, coming up with a couple of big blocks.
“We worked really hard the last couple of weeks on blocking. That’s something that we’ve struggled at in the past, but we wanted to get our offense going as well. Defense wins games but we obviously need an offense too,” Hearn said.
Central's offense produced a 25-14 win in the second set.
The Knights remained hot in the third set. With momentum fully on their side, junior libero Katelyn Gass and senior Lily Hodgson were just part of a group effort on defense that turned well-earned digs into points. This resulted in another large lead for Central, reaching 18-3 before another Roughriders point.
This was followed by a 14-2 Red River run powered by Litzinger and middle hitter Ava Swangstue, but the Knights were able to put the set away 25-22.
“I told them to focus on the basics. We’re just on the court playing our game. Sometimes I think we get a little too nervous when we get big crowds, but I said ‘just play how you know how to play’” said Hearn.
Play was more contested in set four with both teams producing points at an even split. Back and forth both squads scored until an emphatic strike from Central senior Rylee Watson gave the Knights the 24-23 lead and helped push them to a final match win on the next serve.
“It was fun to get our first (win this season) here in Red River with the hometown rivalry. We get along with these girls, but this is the first time we’ve beaten them in quite a while so that’s why it’s pretty special,” Hearn said.