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Greg DeVillers / Forum Communications Co. , Published November 16 2012

Red River rallies past West Fargo in ND Class A state volleyball semifinals

MINOT, N.D. – West Fargo seemed to have it all – a 2-1 lead in sets, a 21-15 lead on the scoreboard and all the momentum.

Did Hadley Steffen think Grand Forks Red River’s bid for a second straight state championship was slipping away?

“Obviously, there’s a little doubt in the back of your mind,” the Red River senior standout said. “But I never thought it was over. You have to believe in your teammates.”

Faith paid off. So did record-setting performances by Steffen and Roughriders setter Payton Salquist. Red River rallied from that deficit to beat the Packers 25-19, 20-25, 24-26, 25-22, 15-10 in the semifinals of the North Dakota Class A state high school volleyball tournament Friday.

It was only the second five-set match of the season for the Roughriders. It was the first time they’d rallied from a 2-1 deficit to win.

Salquist set a state single-match record with 60 assists. Steffen set a state single-match record with 32 kills. And she came up big at big moments.

Red River closed the fourth set on a 10-1 run, including the final six points. Steffen had four kills and a block in that 10-1 spurt.

In the fifth set, West Fargo led 9-8, but the Roughriders closed on a 7-1 run with Steffen getting four kills.

With a 21-15 lead in the fourth set, “I thought we had momentum,” West Fargo coach Paula Pierson said. “We tried to keep the girls’ confidence up, to play things one point at a time. Then Hadley took over.

“They’re just such a seasoned team. And Hadley doesn’t back down. She was the go-to player.”

Red River coach Carolyn Olson said a timeout helped.

“We were getting away from our game plan defensively,” Olson said. “We had to refocus.

“Payton’s job is to run the offense, to find the good matchups and the player who is hot. Hadley’s had plenty of experience in those types of situations. She’s a competitor. She wanted the ball.”

Steffen said the momentum change at the end of the fourth quarter wasn’t so much about kills as it was about stops.

“Our play in the first three sets, and the start of the fourth, was iffy,” Steffen said. “But then our defense stepped up. We played better there. And when that happens, the offense usually gets going.”

Cassidy Bush added 18 kills and four blocks for the Riders, while Kaitlin Anderson had 10 kills and five blocks.

Courtney Suppa had 17 kills to lead West Fargo, all but one of those coming after the first set as she was effective going cross-court with her hits.

“Courtney’s a great player,” Pierson said. “We probably should have fed her more. She was on.”

Christina Bruenjes added 13 kills and eight blocks, with Amanda Levin and Shelby Gustafson getting 11 and 10 kills, respectively.

Red River will be playing in the state championship for the fourth straight season, also winning in 2009 in that run.

GFRR (kills-blocks-service aces): King 0-0-0 (23 digs), Anderson 10-5-1, Salquist 1-0-0 (60 assists), Lancaster 1-0-0, Steffen 32-2-1, Goodman 1-2-0, Bush 18-4-2, Adam 4-0-0, Ripplinger 0-0-1

WF: Klug 0-1-1 (50 assists), Woodbury 0-0-1, Bruenjes 13-8-0, Jipson 0-0-1, Suppa 17-2-2, Levin 11-1-1, Sand 1-1-0, Gustafson 10-0-0

DeVillers writes for the Grand Forks Herald