Red River volleyball holds off Central in five sets

090920 S GFH GGFVOLLEYBALL EllyRustad PaigeCarlson MackenzieNorlin01.jpg
Grand Forks Central's Paige Carlson (8) and Mackenzie Norlin (7) jump to block a spike from Roughriders middle hitter Elly Rustad Tuesday night at Red River High School. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

There were a lot of uncommon sights at the Grand Forks Red River-Grand Forks Central volleyball rivalry Tuesday night.

A limited number of fans were allowed, as long as they wore masks throughout the competition. Players on the sidelines, game officials, scorekeepers and administrators were in masks, too.

Both teams featured first-year head coaches. Both teams had regular contributors out of the lineup, as well.

Despite all the unique flavor, the rivalry matchup's end result was a familiar one.

Red River held off Central 25-18, 25-21, 22-25, 22-25, 15-4 in the Red River gym -- continuing the Roughriders' rivalry dominance that extends nearly 25 years.


The Riders last lost to Central during the 1996-97 season.

"We came out firing but that third game seems to get to us," Red River coach Heather Chatham said. "We're going to get that monkey off our back. Overall, we have to keep the pedal to the metal and finish the game."

Red River won the first two sets and led as late as 21-20 in the third set before the Knights came back to win their first set of the season. Central had been swept 3-0 in the team's first two matches of the year.

The Knights then took the fourth set, too, behind the offense of Sofia McGee and Lauren Hillman -- both of which finished with 14 kills.

"I think we played well," Central coach Kari Hearn said. "The girls played their hearts out. We don't have a whole lot of height with some girls out tonight, but we compensated with our defense. It's too bad we didn't pull it out in the fifth. I think we ran out of gas.

"Confidence is the biggest thing with this group. The nature of this rivalry sometimes ... it's that confidence thing. Once they figured out they're a contender and can play with these guys, they started believing."


Red River pulled away quickly in the fifth set. The Riders were led by junior middle hitter Ava Swangstue, who finished with 12 kills. Ellyn Rustad added seven kills, while Ashlee Welch had 31 assists.

Red River senior outside hitter Kaylee Lancaster, who had more than 200 kills last year, suffered an injury in the first set and didn't return.

"That shook us a little bit," Chatham said. "But I was proud of them for coming together."

Red River also played without senior outside hitter Alex Page, an all-state selection a year ago.

Red River improved to 2-1, while Central dropped to 0-3.

GF Red River 25-25-22-22-15, GF Central 18-21-25-25-4

GF Central (kills-blocks-service aces) -- Jasmine Eisenman 11-0-0, Kaitlyn Hepper 0-0-4, Lauren Hillman 14-0-0, Lily Hodgson 4-0-0, Mackenzie Norlin 2-0-0, Maddie Myrold 1-0-0, Paige Carlson 1-0-2, Sofia McGee 14-2-1

GF Red River --Avery Dusterhoft 6-1-1, Ashlee Welch 2-1-2 (31 assists), Ellyn Rustad 7-0-0, Ella Fosse 1-0-0 (16 digs), Jada Steen 6-1-0, Ava Swangstue 12-1-0, Jasmine Sondrol 5-4-0, Kaylee Lancaster 5-0-2


Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019 and 2022.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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