All season long, Valley City High School sophomore Clarissa Olson has provided a bit of hustle to the Hi-Liner volleyball team. Each match, she's among the team's dig leaders and has no problem finding a few kills.
But Friday, when the Hi-Liners beat Devils Lake 20-25, 25-14, 25-21, 25-13 in an Eastern Dakota Conference play-in match, she wanted to step up even more.
"I just decided I might as well go for it tonight," Olson said. "Sometimes your team needs to depend on a person throughout the whole game and it doesn't matter who that person is as long they're doing the right thing."
Olson took charge throughout the entire match, leading Valley City with 10 kills, and also getting two blocks and 12 digs. The majority of those came at a key stretches in the match as Olson led a balanced offensive attack that struggled early, but easily took the final three sets.
The win advanced Valley City to the EDC tournament for the first time since 2008 and sets the Hi-Liners up for a first round matchup with No. 2 Red River Tuesday night in Grand Forks.
Aside from some struggles in the opening set, the Hi-Liners played confidently against the Firebirds, who were winless against EDC opponents all year.
Throughout the match, both teams found long rallies, which were both a gift and a curse.
In the first set, Valley City got ahead 13-10, only to allow 11 of the next 12 points, even with a timeout taken midway through the run. It gave Devils Lake a 22-14 lead, which Valley narrowed down with a run of its own to make it 22-20.
The Firebirds then scored the final three points of the set to end it, which left Valley City a bit frustrated, Olson said.
"We felt like we needed to kick our butt in gear and do this," she said.
So after getting ahead early again, Valley City allowed two straight points to the Firebirds to make it 12-11.
From there, the Hi-Liners went on their own big run, scoring nine of the next ten points to make it 21-12. It included kills from Madison Taylor, a few aces from Kara Kohler and Cassidy Wendler, and a few kills from freshman Brenna Dieterle.
Dieterle was a late addition to the varsity roster, having spent the entire season playing on the freshman team, Valley City coach Katy Van Dyke said. She was moved up late in the week to help in the middle and immediately found her spot.
Dieterle finished her first varsity match with four kills and a block.
"She was pretty nervous on the bench," Van Dyke said. "When she got out there I looked at my (assistant) coach and said, 'Geeze, it's like she's been playing with us the whole year.'"
Valley City got kills from Olson and took advantage of hitting errors to end the second set up 25-20.
The rest of the match Valley City had few problems, getting kills all over the court from a variety of hitters. They won the third set 25-21 and jumped out to a 10-3 lea early in the fourth set.
Late kills by Olson, Taylor, Jasmine Stevens and Jessica Denholm eventually clinched the win.
The final stats were relatively balanced. Olson's 10 kills led Valley City and she was followed by Denholm, who had nine kills, mostly on sets over the net and team-high 21 assists. Dierra Diegel was third with eight kills.
Defensively, libero Cassidy Wendler led Valley City with 18 digs and was followed by Mariah Olstad with 14 and Olson with 12.
Advancing to the EDC tournament gives the team a shot at a state tournament berth.
The Hi-Liners open against Red River and will play in the second round Friday. A win Friday will advance the team to a state qualifying game.
Van Dyke said it will be a tough tournament.
"We have some work to do to compete with the rest of the teams we're going to be faced up against, but if they work hard, they can do it," she said.