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Tom Miller / Forum Communications Co., Published November 12 2010

Fargo North avenges regular-season losses to top West Fargo at East Region volleyball tournament

GRAND FORKS – During the regular season, Fargo North was swept in two matches against West Fargo, including a three-set handling in late September.

You never would have guessed that watching Thursday afternoon’s East Region quarterfinals.

The Spartans avenged those losses behind a balanced offense in a 25-20, 25-23, 19-25, 25-12 victory over the Packers in the Red River gymnasium.

Fargo North, the No. 4 seed, faces top-seeded Grand Forks Red River in the semifinals at 4 p.m. today. West Fargo, a No. 5 seed, plays No. 8 Devils Lake at 4 p.m. in Red River’s old gym.

“Defensively, we really stepped it up,” North coach Missy Wilson said. “When we play good defense, that puts us into our offensive system. When we’re in our system, it makes it a lot easier to get points.”

Six-foot-3 sophomore Kira Larson, junior Keli Johnson and senior Maren McGurran each recorded five blocks to lead the defense.

North, which improved to 24-10, was paced by a balanced offensive attack that featured four players with more than nine kills.

Johnson led the way with 13 kills, while Larson and McGurran had 11 and Mia Lopez had nine.

“Maren and Mia stepped up their game and had more kills than they usually average,” Wilson said. “That allowed us to be more balanced than we usually are. Maren and Mia really put the ball down.”

West Fargo was paced by Katelyn Holland’s 11 kills.

The key for the Spartans was in hanging on for a victory in the second set. North took a 24-17 lead when Johnson recorded a block. But the Packers charged back to within

24-23 when the Spartans were called for a substitution error.

The Spartans, though, put away the Packers for the

25-23 win on a kill from sophomore Destinee Thorstensen.

In Set 3, West Fargo jumped out to a 10-5 lead and never relented, dropping the Spartans 25-19.

But Set 4 was all Spartans. After trading points to 9-9, North went on a 9-0 run to seal the victory. The run was highlighted by a pair of kills from Thorstensen.

Although the Spartans take the lower seed into the semifinals, North defeated Red River in five sets to close the regular season.

“Red River’s a great team, and we have some similar characteristics with them,” Wilson said. “We both have some taller kids that can hit. It should be a great battle.”

KILLS: FN: Johnson 13, Larson 11, McGurran 11, Lopez 9; WF: Holland 11, Gustafson 8, Ali Barta 5

ASSISTS: FN: Brewer 20, Johnson 19; WF: Barta 13

ACES: FN: Larson 3, Brewer 3; WF: Holland 5, Miller 4, Gustafson 3

Miller writes for the Grand Forks Herald