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N.D. Optimists volleyball: From District 3 rivals to teammates

Nicki Schumacher and Ashley Doeden were two of the key athletes in the rivalry that has built up between the Hillsboro and Thompson high school girls athletic programs in recent seasons.

Nicki Schumacher and Ashley Doeden were two of the key athletes in the rivalry that has built up between the Hillsboro and Thompson high school girls athletic programs in recent seasons.

Schumacher enjoyed the matchups, but she didn't always like the results.

"I can remember that they were always close, intense games when we played each other," said Schumacher, who graduated from Thompson High this spring. "We were always pumped to play Hillsboro. But they always seemed to pull away at the end.

"They always seemed to put it together against us in the postseason. And she was one of their No. 1 players."

Frustration? Thompson and Hillsboro met three times in volleyball in the postseason and twice in basketball over the past four seasons. The Burros won all five.

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Now the two are teammates. Schumacher, a setter, and Doeden, a standout hitter for Hillsboro's volleyball teams the past two seasons, are on the East team in the annual North Dakota Optimists all-star volleyball series.

Outstanding seniors from the 2008 season from the eastern part of North Dakota play their counterparts from the west in 7 p.m. matches that will be held Tuesday in West Fargo High School and Wednesday in Bismarck Century High.

Despite Thompson and Hillsboro being located only about 30 miles apart, Doeden said she and Schumacher know each other only from playing against each other.

"It will be nice to be on the same side for a change," Doeden said. "It will be fun. Nicki was a big part of those Thompson teams that made it to state the last couple of years. I know she's a good player."

The two have a lot in common.

Both were on state-championship volleyball teams at an early age, Schumacher as a freshman in 2005 and Doeden as a sophomore in 2006. Both were all-district picks. Both were selected to the Class B all-state team as seniors.

While Hillsboro held a big advantage head-to-head against the Tommies in the postseason, Doeden admits to feeling a little jealousy towards Schumacher and her teammates. It was Thompson that won the Region 2 volleyball tournament and played in the Class B state tournament each of the past two seasons.

"I didn't have a big part on our state championship team," Doeden said. "It would have been nice to go to state as a starter and get a chance to play in those big games."

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The two have one other thing in common -- neither anticipated the opportunity to play in the all-star matches. Doeden plans to attend North Dakota State University; she thought her volleyball career was done. Schumacher plans to attend UND, and is considering trying out for volleyball as a walk-on.

"I was surprised to be an all-state pick, and to be picked for this," Doeden said. "I never thought of myself as being one of the best players in the state."

Said Schumacher: "I always worked hard for my team. Personal goals were never a part of it. I'm really excited to be playing with some of the top players in the state. I didn't expect this.

"It's kind of sad, that this might be my last volleyball. Sports have been a part of my life forever. It will be a wake-up, just having to work and go to school, and not have sports. It will be different."

Two other area players are on the Optimists East team. All-stater Megan Storstad represents Grand Forks Red River. Courtney Becker, an all-stater as a senior who led Langdon to the 2008 Class B state championship, also is on the team.

In addition, the coaching staff is from the area -- Carolyn Olson of Red River, Rich Olson of Langdon and Missy Miedema, the new head coach at Grand Forks Central.

DeVillers reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1128; (800) 477-6572, ext. 128; or send e-mail to

gdevillers@gfherald.com .

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