Tradition-rich Langdon-E-M wasn't rattled by slow start to volleyball season
The Langdon-Edmore-Munich high school volleyball team was a preseason favorite to repeat as North Dakota state Class B tournament champions.
Then the Cardinals lost twice in the first five matches of the season.
Outside expectations might've wavered, but the Cardinals weren't rattled by the minor early stumbles.
"We were trying to figure out our lineup and exactly what we were going to do with different personnel," said Langdon-E-M coach Rich Olson, whose team dropped close matches to Thompson and Carrington in the early going. "We really learned from those two."
Since losing to Carrington on Sept. 19, Langdon-E-M has won 17 straight matches to advance to this weekend's state tournament at the Fargodome.
The Cardinals face Kenmare in the state quarterfinals at 1 p.m.
One of the key adjustments was at setter, where freshman Jalynn Swanson has won the job and registered 660 assists this year.
For a program as strong as Langdon-E-M, which is making its sixth consecutive trip to the state tournament, a freshman setter is quite rare.
Olson, who's coached at Langdon-E-M for 25 years, can only recall one other freshman setter off the top of his head: Katie Lorenz in the early 2000s. Lorenz went on to play college basketball at North Dakota State.
"Jalynn is a quiet leader but a fierce competitor," Olson said. "She's done a nice job."
Swanson didn't play in two games of the region tournament, where Langdon-E-M needed five sets to hold off North Star in the region championship. She is expected back for the state tournament, though.
"She's done an amazing job," Langdon-E-M all-state hitter Lexis Olson said. "She knows where to be. Everyone's tempo is a little different, and she knows each of our tempos and how we like our sets."
Coach Olson said he wasn't worried about Swanson fitting in with an older lineup.
"That's one of the things you have to judge when you evaluate a player," he said. "Is she able to handle it both physically and mentally? And she had to prove herself. We try not to make decisions based on age but rather ability."
Olson, a 5-foot-11 senior, leads the offensive attack this year coming to state with 311 kills and 79 blocks. Junior Morgan Freije has 238 kills and freshman Cora Badding has 182 kills. Senior Kaylee Lowery has added 107 service aces and 236 digs.
For Lexis Olson, the state tournament will be her fourth.
"It's sad it's coming to an end, and it's really been hitting me the last few days," she said. "I've enjoyed it. I've tried to make the days go slower. I just don't think I'm a senior. I'm excited, though. We won last year so we have to defend our title and hopefully we can get another one."
Langdon-EM vs. Kenmare, 1 p.m.
Head coach: Rich Olson
Players to watch: Lexis Olson, 5-11, Sr., 311 kills, 62 service aces, 316 digs, 79 blocks; Morgan Freije, 5-11, Jr., 238 kills, 50 service aces, 259 digs, 26 blocks; Cora Badding, 6-0, Frosh., 182 kills; Kaylee Lowery, 5-10, Sr., 107 service aces, 236 digs, 49 blocks; Jalynn Swanson, 5-5, Frosh., 660 assists; Morgan Thielbar, 5-6, Jr., 85 assists.
State tournament titles: 2003, 2008, 2010, 2019.
Head coach: Tim Wallstrum
Players to watch: Brenna Stroklund, 5-9, Soph., 166 kills, 23 service aces, 39 blocks; Megan Zimmer, 5-5, Sr., 146 kills, 132 digs; Sierra Skar, 5-6, Sr., 125 kills, 98 digs; Kate Zimmer, 5-5, Soph., 33 service aces, 103 digs, 451 assists; Isabel Sieg, 5-5, Sr., 26 service aces; Amber Houck, 5-6, Soph., 30 assists.
State tournament titles: 2007, 2009