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Linton-HMB stages big-time rally to oust Thompson

Linton-HMB takes thriller in Class B volleyball semifinals

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Thompson's Sydney Schwabe goes for a dig against Linton-HMB during the semifinals of the North Dakota Class B state volleyball tournament at the Bismarck Events Center on Friday, Nov. 18, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum
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BISMARCK – In a 2-0 hole and staring match point in the face, Linton-HMB's hopes of winning its third consecutive title were all but dead.

Seven points in the third set, followed by wins in the fourth and fifth set, the Lions had closed out their 34th consecutive win of the season with a 3-2 semifinal win – 18-25, 17-25, 28-26, 25-19, 15-13 – over Thompson on Friday at the Bismarck Event Center's Main Floor.

"This is the best. I don't think I've ever quite been in a match like that to reach the state title match," Linton head coach Jamie Richter said. "The girls played with so much heart and fight in the final three sets."

In a rematch of last season's semifinals, where the Lions swept the Tommies in three sets, Friday's opening semifinal was nearly a complete reversal in Thompson's favor.

But the Lions just wouldn't go away. Point after point at crucial moments from the third set on went Linton-HMB's way.

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"I'm so proud of the girls," Richter said. "The girls know they have what it takes. I have a lot of inexperienced players, but they were part of our previous teams and they know the feeling of getting (to the state title game). They fought through it as a team."

As it has all season, Linton-HMB's senior talent saw it through to a victorious conclusion.

Shaylee Bosch (24 kills, 12 digs, three aces), Lacey Bosch (12 kills, seven digs, two blocks), and Gracie Schumacher (52 assists, 14 digs, two kills) dragged the Lions back from the dead and into the state championship match.

"I have to make sure that I can transition, get blockers away from me and keep moving around," Shaylee Bosch said of leading her team's offense during the first two days of the state tournament. "I'll help by calling numbers when other hitters are open so they can hit."

Just as the Lions' senior talent saw them through to the end, Thompson's leaders staked the Tommies to a lead.

Clara Stevens (18 kills, 2.5 blocks) and Summer Hegg (17 kills, 5.5 blocks) made Linton-HMB's life miserable around the net and kept the Tommies consistently in front during the first two sets.

"We were pretty nervous and we were making our own mistakes," Bosch said. "We were giving them points by making mistakes. Our setter did a great job of mixing up sets and setting up the right person."

"Thompson wanted it just as much as us," Richter said. "In the first two sets, we were letting balls hit the floor because we were hesitating, then the girls picked up their defense and said they were going for every ball, it didn't matter, we would keep fighting."

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Thompson had leads of 16-13, 18-17, 23-22, and 24-23 during set three, but the Lions recovered and pushed back for ties in all of them.

"That was the biggest thing ever," Bosch said. "It gave us momentum into the next set. Hopefully by winning these last three sets, we'll be able to come out strong tomorrow."

A match that saw 34 ties across its five sets, including 14 in the fourth set alone, was as close as could be.

"I thought the game-changer was when Emma Schick came into the game," she said. "She came in and served a few aces for us, then our energy came alive, our blocking started coming alive, and the girls had a look in their eyes that they were ready to fight.

"The biggest thing I saw was the girls were using their brains to outsmart Thompson and keep them on their toes."

Linton took early control of the fifth set, taking a 3-0 lead and before extending the edge to 7-2.

Thompson wouldn't die. Even facing three consecutive match points, the Tommies survived to close within a point at 14-13.

"I told the girls that they were setting a heavy block on Lacey (Bosch)," Richter said. "I told the girls that we had to get our three hitters up and ready to go. I told Gracie (Schumacher) to go where the blocker wasn't. The blocker went with Lacey, Paige (Hulm) was wide open and she got the point for us."

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Hulm's shot fell to the floor, and the Lions could finally relax and celebrate their completed comeback.

"I'm so excited and I'm proud of the girls for coming together to win this game," Bosch said. "I think we can do well tomorrow. I'm excited, I think the girls will come together and do something great."

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