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MONTPELIER, N.D. â€” With only a handful of players with significant varsity experience and five with no varsity experience entering the season, it'd be easy to dismiss the Litchville-Marion/Montpelier volleyball team.
But even with an 0-10 record, it's a team that first-year coach Ryan Nelson believes the girls are onto something, even if the record isn't showing it.
"To come out the way we are playing, it's awesome," Nelson said. "We don't have a win yet, but we've gone four sets a couple of times now with teams that are supposed to be top dogs in our district.
"We're right there for such a young team."
Although Thursday's 25-19, 25-7, 25-13 home loss to LaMoure was in straight sets, the Rebels showed their potential, giving an early scare to a team expected to be atop the Class B District 2 standings.
It wasn't until the final two sets that LaMoure definitively took control of the match.
In the opening set, the Rebels got an early boost from a few missed kills by the Loboes, combined with an ace by Heather Graalum and a kill by Tanys Ulmer, which got them out to a 5-0 lead.
LaMoure chipped away at the lead, eventually tying the game at 9-9 before getting the lead up to 14-10.
But the young Rebels played their way back, getting taking a 15-14 lead on a spike by Ulmer.
Another brief run, started on a lift call against LMM, got LaMoure's lead up to 19-16, which the Loboes never let up.
The closest the game got from there was two points, when an ace by LMM's Leah Bruse made it 19-17 in LaMoure's favor, before LaMoure closed it out shortly later.
After that though, the Loboes got ahead early, which paid off in the final two sets.
LMM opened the second set with a block at the net by Ulmer and Bruse, which was the only lead they had the entire set.
After that, LaMoure scored four straight points. After LMM briefly chipped at the lead and narrowed it to 7-5, LaMoure went on a good run, scoring 16 straight points behind the serves of Andrea Watkins, who led LMM with nine aces in the match, to make it 23-5.
LMM scored two more points before a tip over by Courtney Carlson gave LaMoure the ball back. The set then ended on an ace by Talitha Hirschokorn.
Similarly, LMM scored the first point of the third set, before LaMoure went on a 7-1 run to take a 7-2 lead, which the Loboes largely held until the end.
Nelson said his team needed to string points together better at times, but also noted the difficulty with coming back in a match like that.
"It's harder to work from behind," he said."It's easier to play with a lead than try to crawl back all the time."
The Rebels were led by Ulmer with five kills. Trisha Alber, Kelly Susa and Rhandi Larson all had two kills. Bruse led LMM with eight assists and libero Tasha Piehl had 10 digs.
LaMoure was led by Courtney Carlson, who had eight kills, five aces and 11 digs. Watkins had seven kills. Megan Good had 22 assists and five blocks.
The match left Nelson optimistic.
"That's supposed to be the best team in our district, so to come out here and actually play with them and give them three decent sets, it's alright."