ND volleyball prevails over St. Paul to win state title

Courtesy photos– Becky Gerrard Photography

The fifth-seeded North Douglas Warriors volleyball team capped off an historic season with a win over the second seed St. Paul Buckaroos in the state title game Saturday evening a Ridgeview High school, bringing home the first state title in program history.

The Warriors defeated St. Paul in four sets and end their season with an overall record of 27-3. 

“It was a lot of excitement,” said Head Coach Emily Reed. “It was just like everything that we had worked so hard for was done. We have the best fans. And we had a lot of people who traveled to that game who have vested interest in our team all year. And so it was really awesome to have them come out there with us, especially our student section who stands up and screams the whole time. And for them to be out there with us. It was pretty special.” 

North Douglas would go on two different 5-0 runs in the first set with the second giving the Warriors a 16-14 lead. After St. Paul was able to tie the set back up at 18-18 North Douglas did not quiver and a timely ace from Asia Ward gave back a three-point lead for the Warriors forcing St. Paul to take a timeout with a North Douglas 21-18 lead.

“Our message when we get to 20 points is to keep being aggressive,” said Reed. “And to be the ones that are putting the ball in play and playing smart when it gets to that point so that we can finish.” 

St. Paul ripped off three points in a row to tie the game back at 22 following their timeout. But the Buckaroos mistakes helped North Douglas grab the lead again after two St. Paul balls went out and the Warriors had a 24-22 lead. Brooke McHaffie’s block at the net secured a set win for North Douglas 25-22. 

St. Paul had a response in the second set being led by Stella Koch. North Douglas would make a run to cut the lead to only two with plays from Cydni Dill, Brooklyn Williams, and Samantha MacDowell making the lead only 14-12 for St. Paul. 

But two mistakes against North Douglas would add to a 5-0 answer from St. Paul making the lead 19-13. Meredith Coleman would later hit the ball off a North Douglas block for a St. Paul point followed by an ace that gave the Buckaroos a 24-18 lead. North Douglas on the next play hit the ball into the net giving set two to St. Paul.

“We knew it was going to be a battle and they (St. Paul) wanted it just as bad as us and they weren’t just gonna lay down and let us have it,” said Reed. “We did not come out and play very well in that second set and we kind of beat ourselves I felt like.” 

North Douglas completely bulldozed St. Paul in the third set. After a Koch block on Halli Vaughn at the net, The Warriors would seemingly be untouchable in their 7-0 run with plays from Vaughn, Williams, and MacDowell made the lead 17-6. 

St. Paul scored one more time making it 17-7 but continued to have no answer for the point barrage North Douglas unleashed on them. 

“I really felt like we could do nothing wrong,” said Reed. “Every hit like was hitting the corner. Every serve was right in a place where they struggled to pass and literally every time we touched the ball was like it hit the ground on their side. It was crazy.”

Vaughn scored five aces in the last six points for North Douglas as they cruised to a 25-7 third set win. 

North Douglas knew they were on the verge of winning after coming off their most dominant set win all season. 

The positive momentum continued as Lailah Ward got involved serving two aces in a row making the score 12-3 in favor of North Douglas in the fourth set. 

Koch tried to spark a comeback for St. Paul after scoring a point the Buckaroos would cut into the North Douglas lead making the score 21-16 for North Douglas forcing Coach Reed to use a timeout. 

“I just told them to relax and then it wasn’t over,” said Reed during the timeout. “We needed to get the ball in play. I felt like our serving was really good. But every time we got the ball in play, I felt like it was another chance for them to make the mistake. And so, I just said give it everything you can. Everything you got leave it on the court, no regrets.” 

Koch would score one more point for St. Paul as her hit went off the North Douglas block making the score 24-17 with North Douglas only needing one more point for the win. 

On the ensuing play, St. Paul’s hit would go out of bounds securing a win for North Douglas and a euphoric moment for the team and the fans who made the road trip over from Drain. 

“I’m very, very proud,” said Reed. “I’m so proud of those girls and told them that they’ve done something that no one else has ever done at North Douglas. “The 12 of them have something they can say that no other girls in the entire program’s history can ever say that they won a state title.”

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