Entering Thursday's match with Kindred, the Maple Valley High School volleyball team knew one of the Vikings' biggest threats was going to be Kellie Schmit.
"She's a very good player," Maple Valley coach Jessica Theurer said. "We just had to do our best to attack so they couldn't set her up."
It was a strategy that worked at times, but wasn't quite as potent as the Raiders hoped in their 25-15, 25-21, 25-13 loss to Kindred.
Throughout the match, Schmit worked her way around the court, killing the ball with both speed and precision, either hitting the ball hard enough to force tough digs, or putting it where the Raiders couldn't dig it, period.
It was a performance that allowed the Vikings to go on long runs, even as the Raiders battled hard against the reigning Class B District 2 champions, who missed state after losing to eventual state champion Central Cass in the regional final.
In all three sets, the Raiders struggled early but mounted aggressive comeback attempts.
In the opening set, the Raiders got an opening tip over the net by Rylee Nudell and kept it close for the first six points, tying it 3-3.
From there, the Vikings went on an 11-2 run on a combination of Maple Valley serving struggles, a few hits from Schmit, Tessa Heitkamp and Alexandra Erickson to make it 14-5.
Though the Raiders attempted to rally back with a few short runs, Kindred kept the score at least seven points apart the rest of the way.
Schmit again found her stride early in the second set, which gave Kindred a chance to jump out to a 12-4 lead early.
As the set continued, Maple Valley narrowed the lead to 17-11.
A tip over the net by Nudell then set the pace as the Raiders scored six straight points to tie it.
Three of those points came from hits by Maple Valley senior Cassie Pautz, who finished with seven kills, second only to Nudell, who had eight.
"She was feeling it," Theurer said about Pautz. "She placed the ball well. She did what we worked on in practice yesterday and I was really proud of her, the way she played, and her leadership tonight."
The Vikings then had a kill by Schmit and took advantage of mistakes by Maple Valley to go up 21-17. Kindred kept at least a three-point buffer the rest of the way, ending the set on a spike by Schmit.
The third set ended the match after Kindred got a quick 8-3 lead and held it the rest of the way, limiting the Raiders to one brief point at a time.
Even though her team lost, Theurer was happy with the team's play.
It was the second time this year, including a match with Central Cass at the Valley City Optimist Club Tournament, the Raiders have held their own for at least one set against a top team in their region.
"I don't think the score depicted how we played," she said. "We played so well. They're really coming around and I'm glad because now we're getting into the second half of the season and we need to play together, play hard."
VCHS 3, GF Central 1
The Valley City High School volleyball team recovered from a rough first set in a 12-25, 25-22, 25-23, 25-23 win at Grand Forks Central Thursday.
The win was worth two points in the Eastern Dakota Conference standings.
The Hi-Liners and Maple Valley will both be at a a tournament in Lisbon Saturday.
EK 3, LMM 1
Tasha Piehl found her rhythm defensively but the rest of the Litchville-Marion/Montpelier volleyball team struggled to find an offense in a 25-16, 25-15, 25-19 loss to Edgeley/Kulm.
Piehl finished with 21 digs. Heather Graalum had three kills and three players â€” Tanys Ulmer, Rhandi Larson and Leah Bruseâ€” had two.
The Rebels play at home with Maple Valley Tuesday.