BISMARCK, N.D. — The Central Community College volleyball team never lowered its expectations.
When sophomore middle hitter Maeghan Pieper, an honorable mention All-American in 2016, was lost for the season in late September and starters Jessica Eurek and Paxton Throne also missed time with injuries, the Raiders didn’t think about altering their goals.
They didn’t just expect to make the NJCAA Division II national tournament, they planned to improve upon last year’s 1-2 showing at the event.
“We didn’t want anything to change, so we just kept pushing forward,” said sophomore middle hitter Chainey Tompkin.
The Giltner graduate and her teammates never lost confidence in each other, even during a 5-6 stretch that followed the string of injuries.
“We had to come together no matter what we were thrown into,” said Tompkin, who helped the 11th-ranked Raiders meet one of their expectations on Saturday.
Central swept Bismarck State College in the best-of-three District G playoff to reach the national tournament for the seventh straight season.
The Raiders lost just one set in the two matches played Friday and Saturday on Bismarck State’s home court.
“We just had faith that we could do it,” said Tompkin, who played a big part in Saturday’s four-set victory.
Tompkin recorded 17 kills on .429 hitting and four blocks to lead the Raiders in the 25-21, 25-21, 22-25, 25-14 win. She now has 187 total blocks this season, a school record dating back to 1990.
Amber Anderson added 14 kills and four blocks for the Raiders, and Jacie Laetsch had a double-double with 12 kills and 11 digs.
Throne dished out 49 assists and was one of four Raiders with double-digit digs, along with Laetsch, Maddie Davis and Lexi Holland.
Central head coach Mary Young was happy to get the win, but she sees room for improvement as the Raiders prepare for the national tournament scheduled for Nov. 16-18 in Charleston, West Virginia.
“We still feel like we have a lot of work to do,” said Young, who wants to clean up some ball-handling issues and make sure her team plays with a sense of urgency.
The Raiders rolled to a 25-22, 25-17, 25-23 victory Friday night over Bismarck State.
Laetsch also posted a double-double in that match, finishing with a team-best 16 kills on .412 hitting and 14 digs.
Anderson had nine kills and two blocks, Throne tallied 33 assists, six digs and four kills and Holland recorded 14 digs. Lakeview graduate Jordee Korte led Central with five total blocks.
The Raiders, who finished tied for 11th place at last year’s national tournament, are 33-10 entering this year’s event.
Tompkin is looking for a top-five finish to cap her career at Central.
“Making it is obviously the first step, but going one game at a time is all we can do now,” she said.
Young, who is making her 10th trip to the national tourney in 23 seasons at Central, shares that mentality.
“From here we take it one match at a time and see where it takes us,” she said.