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By Greg Devillers / Forum Communications Co., Published November 19 2010

ND Class B volleyball: Close to victory, Central Cass falls in five sets

MINOT, N.D. – Jessica Niemitalo found herself in uncomfortable territory Thursday night.

Niemitalo’s Stanley volleyball team hadn’t been in a situation where it was down 2-1 in games all season – not until Central Cass took that edge in the quarterfinals of the North Dakota Class B state high school tournament.

“It hasn’t happened all season,” Niemitalo said. “I’m not going to lie. I was nervous.”

But Stanley proved its ability to come back. The Blue Jays overcame a 21-18 deficit in the fourth game to pull out a 25-20, 23-25, 24-26, 26-24, 15-10 victory.

“It was wonderful to see,” Niemitalo said.

Stanley meets Linton-H-M-B in an

8 p.m. championship semifinal match today, while Central Cass takes on Park River/Fordville-Lankin in a 2 p.m. consolation semifinal.

“The girls just went after it,” Niemitalo said. Before the fifth game, “We told them, ‘It’s up to you now. Go at them, do the things you want to do.’ I think our hitting (was the spark). We haven’t been tested against big blockers like that. They had to go out and be the big hitters.”

The match marked the first down Stanley went five games in a match, as well as the first time it was down 2-1, this year.

Central Cass was a point from a four-set win, taking a 24-23 lead in the fourth set on a hitting violation. But Stanley, which closed the game on an 8-3 run, got the win on three straight Central Cass errors.

In the fifth set, the Blue Jays never trailed, jumping to 6-1 and 10-3 advantages and putting away the win on a Shaunessy Dauwalder kill.

“I thought we could put them away,” Central Cass Dana Stansbery said of the fourth set. “But then we ended up playing defensively. They kept swinging and swinging and we couldn’t get back into our offense.”

Dauwalder led the young (no seniors) Blue Jays with 19 kills and four blocks. Jasmin Pappa added 18 kills and Chai Pappa. Stanley had advantages of 60-51 in kills and 20-1 in service aces, with Dauwalder getting seven aces and Karlie Hoherz five.

Central Cass also was hurt when Haley Weber suffered an ankle injury early in the second game and never returned.

“That was huge,” Stansbery said. “She’s one of our top two defensive players. She gets to balls that other kids don’t. We missed her against Stanley’s huge attack.”

Central Cass had some big hitters of its own. Anna Morris put down 14 kills, Courtney Dixon 11 and Jenna Kost 10. But, Stansbery said, “We hit a lot of balls out.”

Central Cass had rallied itself after dropping the opening game. The Blue Jays were on the verge of taking a 2-1 lead with a 24-21 lead in the third game, but Central Cass closed on a 5-0 run.

STANLEY (kills-blocks-aces): C. Pappa 14-3-3, Hoherz 4-0-5, Kuster 1-0-0, Dauwalder 19-4-7, Mehus 2-0-1 (41 assists, 30 digs), Anderson 0-0-2, Holland 1-1-0, J. Pappa 18-1-2, Sauber 1-1-0.

CENTRAL CASS: Weber 1-0-0, Kost 10-1-0 (12 digs), Wieland 2-0-0, Voss 3-1-0 (26 assists, 21 digs), Dixon 11-1-0, Morris 14-7-0, S. Weber 9-1-0, Marschke 1-0-1.

DeVillers writes for The Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.