It was gut check time for the Belle Fourche Broncs late in the fourth set and again early in the fifth set Thursday in the first round of the Class A State Volleyball Tournament against Sioux Valley at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.

No sweat; the Broncs are used to it.

Belle Fourche, 31-3, has been in the same situation before this season — just the last time it played in a five-set win over Winner in the Sweet 16. On Thursday, the Broncs rallied to down Sioux Valley 25-17, 16-25, 26-24, 25-23 and 15-12.

With the win, the Broncs move on to the semifinals tonight at 7:45 p.m. against Dakota Valley.

“It was so exciting, so intense. The atmosphere was crazy,” Belle Fourche senior Sierra Ward said. “Our team pulled it together. It was so exciting.”

The Cossacks battled back from that first-set loss to win the next two and lead as late as 22-21 in the fourth set. Three more points for Sioux Valley and it is all she wrote.

But Belle Fourche got three straight kills from Ward to go up by two points. At set-point, Ward's kill to send the match into the fifth set.

In that fifth set, the Broncs scored the first point only to see Sioux Valley run off five straight. But once again, it was just a matter of time for Belle Fourche.

Two kills by Mandee Williamson and a hitting violation by the Cossacks put the Broncs up 10-9, and it was a lead they would never relinquish. With Belle Fourche leading 14-12, the Cossacks couldn’t handle another Ward hit and the Broncs celebrated a first-round victory at the state tournament in front their boisterous purple-dominated fans.

“We’ve been in this kind of situation a lot, where it has been close, and we go to five a lot,” Ward said. “I think in the middle of that we knew we had to keep hitting, we couldn’t let up because we had to keep pushing back. They are a good team and they are going to fight back too.”

Belle Fourche coach Loree Schlichtemeier said her team doesn’t let itself get rattled; it stays patient and it keeps working hard. That was certainly the case on Thursday night.

“In that fourth game, you have to win that one,” Schlichtemeier said. “Going into the fifth game, we have been in that situation a few times this year, and that is a whole different element in the fifth game because it goes really fast.”

Thursday night was the fifth time the Broncs have played five-set matches — all wins.

“It’s really tough in that fifth set,” Ward said. “Even when we played Winner, we were in that same situation; we were down 5-1. We had to pull ourselves together and we had to think, ‘Do we want this hard enough? Do we want this enough?’ We pulled through.”

Sioux Valley coach Jill Vincent said they were so close to not letting it go five sets. But not close enough.

“In that fourth game, I thought if we could keep the lead, then we had a chance of pulling out the set,” Vincent said. “But we just couldn’t pull it together. They got going offensively and we let them score too many points on a run.

“When you only go to 15, it ends so fast,” Vincent added. “I thought that my team came out and played with a lot of confidence. We passed a little bit better. But once it got a little intense, they started to catch up on the lead that we had and we got a little uptight.”

There’s no chance for forgiveness sometimes in these five-set matches that go to 15 points.

“The momentum is a huge thing if you get on a roll in that fifth game; it is so hard to catch up. It’s a different beast," Schlichtemeier said.

Ward was spectacular throughout the match, even when Sioux Valley seemed to be in control. She finished with a match-high 34 kills (nearly 7 per set) and added nine digs and two assists.

“I like to have the ball, but all of my teammates are really good players too,” Ward said. “They’re just as good as me.”

Williamson added 17 kills for Belle Fourche, along with two assisted blocks and two serving aces. Ashley Byrd had seven kills and setter Payson Birkeland finished with 50 assists.

“I have a lot of confidence with in girls, and that’s win or lose,” Schlichtemeier said. “Whatever they are going to do for me is going to be their best. We want to play with no regrets, and I trust that we are going to do that. We came out on that lucky side.”

Nicole Ziegler paced Sioux Valley with 18 kills and 15 digs, with Lynsey Stevens adding 15 kills and two blocks. Miakken Vincent had nine kills for the Cossacks, who will face Parker in the consolation round at 1:45 p.m. today.

“We have to come out right off the bat and play relaxed and play our style,” Jill Vincent said. “Hopefully we have enough energy to push through, and we can use that in our favor.”

For Belle Fourche, the win means it is at the very least going to play for third place.

“It’s really exciting for us to know that we are in the top four in the state right now,” Ward said.

Although they were riding high after the win, Schlichtemeier said it was business as usual as they got back to work scouting their next opponent.

“It doesn’t get any easier,” she said. “We want to enjoy it no matter what we are going to do.”

SIOUX FALLS CHRISTIAN 3, MCCOOK CENTRAL/MONTROSE 1: Ellie Voss had 17 kills to lead Sioux Falls Christian to a win in the first round of the Class A state tournament on Thursday.

The Chargers got out to a good start as they took the first set 25-19, before winning the second 25-18.

The Fighting Cougars battled their way back into the match, earning a 30-28 third set win.

In the fourth set, Christian was able to seal the victory with a 25-18 win.

Kylee Van Egdom chipped in with 12 kills for the Chargers, Samantha Fykstra finished with 41 assists and Emily Strasser had 21 digs.

Emily Bies led the Cougars with 10 assists, while Aleah Ries and McKenna Kranz finished with eight digs apiece.

Sioux Falls Christian will play Madison today at 6 p.m., while McCook Central/Montrose takes on Miller in the consolation semifinals at noon.

MADISON 3, MILLER 1: The Bulldogs jumped out to a two set advantage on their way to a win over Miller in the quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon.

Madison took the first two sets 25-17 and 25-20, before losing the third set 25-19.

The Bulldogs fought their way back in the fourth set, earning the semifinal berth with a 25-22 victory.

Olivia Rud paced Madison with 20 assists, while Jessi Giles chipped in with 18 kills and 19 digs. Shania Schwebach led the team in assists with 48.

Kadye Fernholz led the way for the Rustlers with 17 kills and Rachel Oligmueller finished with 35 assists.

DAKOTA VALLEY 3, PARKER 0: Meredith Lammers had 15 kills as she led Dakota Valley to a straight set victory over Parker Thursday night.

The Panthers had little trouble in the opening set as they took the 1-0 lead with a 25-16 victory.

The next two sets saw a pretty similar result, as Dakota Valley took the second set 25-12, followed by a 25-19 third set to close the match out.

Ally Beresford led the Panthers with 38 assist, while Alyssa Johnson paced the team with 12 digs.

Hannah Even led the Pheasants with 19 assists and Hannah Viet finished with seven kills.

Dakota Valley earned a shot at No. 3 Belle Fourche today at 7:45 p.m., while Parker takes on Sioux Valley in the consolation semis at 1:45 p.m.

Journal staff writer Aaron Finnell contributed to this report.

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