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Going 19-11, repeating as conference champs highlighted Tigers' season

Montana Baker (13) capped off her senior season by earning Northland Conference honors. Vance Carlson / Enterprise

Winning the Northland Conference title for the 11th year in a row and finishing the season with a 19-11 overall record led to another successful season for the Nevis volleyball team.

The Tigers went undefeated in conference matches with wins over Pine River-Backus (20-25, 20-25, 25-15, 28-26, 15-6), Blackduck (25-15, 25-5, 25-6), Laporte (20-25, 25-9, 25-13, 25-13), Walker-Hackensack-Akeley (25-23, 24-26, 25-13, 27-25), Northome-Kelliher (25-8, 25-8, 25-12), Cass Lake (25-15, 25-11, 25-13) and Clearbrook-Gonvick (25-7, 25-16, 25-11).

Following Nevis' 7-0 record in the conference standings were PR-B at 6-1, W-H-A at 5-2, Laporte at 4-3, Cass Lake at 2-5, Northome-Kelliher at 2-5, Clearbrook-Gonvick at 2-5 and Blackduck at 0-7.

Going 17-10 during the regular season gave Nevis the No. 2 seed in the Section 5A North B bracket. The Tigers opened section play with a 25-8, 25-9, 25-11 win over No. 7 Bertha-Hewitt and a 25-15, 25-23, 15-25, 25-18 victory over No. 3 Walker-Hackensack-Akeley. The Tigers saw their season end with a 25-12, 25-16, 25-20 loss to Rush City, the No. 1 seed in the North A bracket. Pine River-Backus, the No. 1 seed in the North B bracket, defeated Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa for the section title before losing both matches at the state Class A tournament.

Leading the Tigers this season were seniors Montana Baker, Viviana Viloria and Madison Neyens; juniors Andrea Dudley, Ashley Pyburn, Jess Swanda and Janesa Felt; sophomores Kia Heide and Cora Umthun; and freshman Sadie Thurner. Of that group, Baker, Dudley, Pyburn and Thurner received all-conference honors while Viloria, Felt, Swanda and Heide were all-conference honorable mention selections.

Baker put 143 of 165 serves in play with 24 aces and had 232 kills, four solo and 22 total blocks, 14 set assists and 87 digs as an outside hitter.

Dudley led the Tigers with 662 set assists to surpass 2,000 in her career while putting 340 of 351 serves in play with a team-high 31 aces to go along with 70 kills, five solo and 27 total blocks, and 256 digs as the starting setter.

Pyburn started as a middle hitter and led the Tigers with 240 kills and 58 total blocks (including 10 solo blocks) while tallying 214 digs and 23 set assists. Pyburn put 251 of 275 serves in play with 24 aces.

Thurner was a defensive specialist who led the Tigers with 422 digs. Thurner also put 220 of 241 serves in play with 21 aces and had five kills and 10 set assists.

Viloria also was a defensive specialist who put 238 of 251 serves in play with 12 aces and had nine set assists and 165 digs.

Heide was second on the team with 235 kills and added five solo and 19 total blocks with 58 digs and went 51 for 56 in serves with nine aces as an outside hitter.

Felt went 78 for 87 in serves with six aces and was second on the team with 36 set assists as a setter. Felt also had 17 kills, four solo and 20 total blocks, and 79 digs.

Swanda was a middle hitter who led the Tigers with 11 solo blocks and was second with 37 total blocks. Swanda also had 63 kills and put 34 of 41 serves in play with five aces while chipping in 56 digs and seven set assists.

Neyens served as an outside hitter and went 134 for 145 in serves with 14 aces and had nine kills and six set assists with 16 digs.

Umthun put 199 of 214 serves in play with 23 aces with 18 set assists and 80 digs as a defensive specialist.

Also seeing action for the Tigers this season were sophomores Cole Mastley and Jayden Vredenburg as outside hitters and eighth grader Ava Isaacson as an outside hitter.

"We had a great season," said Nevis head coach Heidi Wormley. "I'm very proud of this group of girls for winning the conference against a very tough Pine River-Backus team and a very tough Walker-Hackensack-Akeley team."