BY CHAD DARE
---- — BISMARCK — Salt Fork senior Emilie McFadden has started every varsity match during her volleyball career, but there was one thing she had never accomplished.
On Thursday night in the championship match of the IHSA Class 2A Bismarck-Henning Regional, McFadden and her Storm teammates did something that's never been done in Salt Fork history.
The top-seeded Storm rallied to beat the Bismarck-Henning Blue Devils, 21-25, 25-20, 25-16 to claim a regional championship plaque. Salt Fork also set a school record for wins (26) in the contest.
"Who would have thought this was possible a year and a half ago, when we started the year 1-7,'' Salt Fork coach Brent Bowman said. "I'm especially happy for senior Emile McFadden. She's done something, by starting every match in four years, that not many athletes can say.''
Bowman admitted that winning the first-ever regional title and setting a school-record for wins was the main goals entering this season.
"I was a believer,'' McFadden said. "I knew this team could do it.''
But, why? A year ago, the Salt Fork Storm lost to the Bismarck-Henning Blue Devils in the regional championship match.
"We had something this year that other teams haven't had,'' said McFadden, who had a double-double with 11 kills and 12 digs. "We were hard working and confident in ourselves.
"A year ago, we were working hard, but we didn't have all the fundamentals down. Things just came together for us over the summer and during this season. This is a feeling that I'm never going to forget.''
Senior setter Allie Trosper, who had a match-high 31 assists, admitted the Storm had revenge on their minds.
"We wanted to show them what we were made of this year,'' she said. "Every game this season, we kept getting better and we kept getting closer together as a team.''
And that togetherness was tested on Thursday night.
Salt Fork jumped out to a 14-5 lead in the first set, but Bismarck-Henning (16-10) came back to win that opening set 25-21.
"I really thought that Bismarck had us after the first set,'' McFadden admitted. "Their intensity was up and their student section was awesome.''
So, what turned it around for the Storm?
"Coach Bowman,'' McFadden said. "He got us all jacked up and pumped up for the second set.''
With Salt Fork clinging to a 22-20 lead in the second set, the Storm went to their senior leader. McFadden's kill was followed by kills from Kayln Leanard and Jenny Kimbro as McFadden served out the set and send the championship match into a third and decisive set.
"Emile is our go-to girl,'' Bowman said. "When she is in the front row, that's who we are going to go to for the big points.''
The Storm had their 22-20 lead in the second set as the Blue Devils made a couple of miscues.
"We didn't follow our game plan as well as we did in the first set,'' Bismarck-Henning coach Susan Kentner said. "We had a couple untimely errors — a service error and a hitting error at crucial points gave away two points.''
But the biggest problem for Bismarck-Henning was passing. Senior Mary Bass wound up with just 12 kills and senior setter Maddie Winkler was limited for 22 assists in the three-set match.
"Passing wasn't as sharp as it needed to be,'' Kentner said. "That affected our setting and we were just off the net too many times.''
With the victory, Salt Fork advances to the IHSA Class 2A Argenta-Oreana Sectional where the Storm will play the St. Joseph-Ogden Spartans in a 7 p.m. match next Tuesday.