Area prep notebook: Riders' depth reminiscent of '09 state champs
Grand Forks Red River's volleyball team has had a balancing act in its offense. Seniors Emily Asche and Katie Ronkowski and sophomore Hadley Steffen, three returning regulars from last season's Class A championship team, were consistently the tea...
Grand Forks Red River's volleyball team has had a balancing act in its offense.
Seniors Emily Asche and Katie Ronkowski and sophomore Hadley Steffen, three returning regulars from last season's Class A championship team, were consistently the team's top hitters early in the season. Of late, however, they've shared that role with seniors Annika Strand and Kaitlyn Bollingberg.
"We have a lot of hitters we can go to," Red River coach Carolyn Olson said. "Annika, a starter on last year's team, has come back from an injury and that's certainly helped. Kayla has recovered from a shoulder injury.
"We felt at the start of the season that we had the potential to have a variety of hitters. It gives us a lot of options."
Red River finished the regular season 21-7 and co-champion in the East Region with Fargo Shanley. As a result of tiebreakers, the Roughriders take the No. 1 seed into the East Region tournament, which begins Thursday in Fargo. In the quarterfinals, Red River meets the winner of the Valley City-Devils Lake play-in match.
Red River closed the regular season with a 3-2 loss to Fargo North.
"With the exception of (the North match) we've been playing well," Olson said. "We've been playing aggressively on offense and our defense has greatly improved since the beginning of the year."
The balanced offense is similar to last season's Red River team.
The loss to North, however, shows the concern Olson has -- inconsistency.
"We hadn't settled on a set lineup until lately," Olson said. "Is our team with the most potential going to be the one that shows up on the floor?"
Knights in play-in
While Red River goes straight from the regular season to the East Region volleyball tournament, Grand Forks Central faces a play-in to reach the regional.
The Knights, 6-23 and seeded 10th, are at No. 7 Wahpeton for a 6 p.m. play-in match tonight. While the low seed says the odds are against Central, Knights coach Missy Miedema has seen her team play competitive matches with the region's best teams.
"We took Red River, the No. 1 seed, to five games," Miedema said. "With the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds, Fargo South and Fargo North, we went four games. We lost those matches, but we showed we can play with anybody.
"We were in the matches with North and South until we let them go on 9-0 runs and it was over. If we stay focused and play consistently, we can play with anyone."
Central's strength is at the net with middle hitters Caitlin Farroh and Taylor Hammer and, on the right side, Katie Marynik and Michaela Johnson. It's a young quartet -- Farroh is a senior, Hammer a sophomore and Johnson and Marynik both juniors.
"They've been our most consistent hitters," Miedema said. "When we get the ball to them, we've done well. They're all capable of terminating the ball against any team in our region. And they're all 5-11 or taller. That's helpful. We just have to use it to our advantage."
Will quality be
enough for Riders?
Grand Forks Red River could be favored to win six of the 12 events today at the Eastern Dakota Conference girls swim meet, which begins at 1:30 p.m. at West Fargo High School.
But will that be enough for a team title? Coach Bryan Walls isn't sure.
"Red River should win six events, at least," Walls said. "I'll be disappointed if we don't.
"I'm hoping Red River can be in the top two (in the team race). We have an outside chance at first place. But it comes down to the numbers game. West Fargo and Fargo North are stronger as far as numbers. Depth is important."
The Riders' top individual is Erin Grabanski, the favorite in the 100 backstroke and the 200 individual medley, of which she is defending EDC champion. Walls said Mirna Kojic (50 and 100 freestyles), as well as Red River's 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays also figure to be favorites. Walls looks for the quartet of Grabanski, Addy DiCristina, Breanna Schmidt and Kojic to be especially strong.
"We're stacking the 200 free," Walls said. "We're going for the EDC record."
Grand Forks also could have a double winner in Central's Ali Church. She's defending conference champion in both the 200 and 500 freestyle races.