For the 19th straight season, the Rapid City Stevens volleyball team is state tournament bound.

Playing across town next week, the Raiders look to be right at home. Stevens qualified for the state Class AA state tournament, which begins Thursday at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, after disposing of cross-town rival Rapid City Central in three sets.

The Cobblers hung tough at times, but Stevens very rarely trailed en route to a 25-19, 25-18 and 25-19 victory.

Stevens will face Huron Thursday in the first round of state.

Stevens coach Kylie Voorhees said that it means a lot for her team to get another crack at a state title.

“I have an amazing, young team. If we play to our potential we have a chance at a state title, we have a chance to be playing Saturday night,” she said. “It excites me and it excites the girls. They know that if they play with confidence and up to their abilities, you will be seeing us Saturday night.”

Stevens junior middle blocker Phebie Rossi said that when the Raiders play with confidence, they are tough to beat.

“We can win anytime that we play with confidence, and we all know we are amazing players,” Rossi said. “We knew what they (Central) could do, and we just came out all guns blazing. We knew that we wanted to win more than they did and we want a state championship.”

Voorhees said that serving and defense were once again keys to the Raiders’ win. Stevens only trailed a couple of times in the match – once very early in the first set and 10-9 in the third set.

“Our serving really kept us in the match and it took Central out of this match,” she said. “We also blocked very well and played strong defense. I think defensively we had a great match.”

Central coach Jeanne Deming gave credit to the Raiders for playing their game and taking the Cobblers out of their own.

“They are a very good team; they are very disciplined,” Deming said. ‘We just made some mistakes, too many in a row, and couldn’t come back.”

Rossi led the way offensively for the Raiders with 10 kills, while Grace Martin added seven kills and Elizabeth Schaefer finished with five.

Marlee Schneider had four service aces and 20 set assists.

Voorhees said she told her girls going into Thursday night that they started over two weeks ago after their final regular-season match.

It was a new season.

“We played Central twice and they were a different team,” she said. “They were flowing and they were playing better. I said we could never get lackadaisical. I think the girls did a great job of discovering some lulls and getting out of them quickly.”

The win put the Raiders at 28-6 on the season. Seeded third heading into the Sweet 16, Voorhees feels the team is playing its best at the right time.

“I feel like we are putting a lot of things together, we’re fixing some things that were broken. I believe we are playing at our peak. As long as we play with confidence, we’ll be good to go.”

It will now all be about fine tuning as the Raiders get ready for the state tournament.

“We’ll work on fundamentals, because that is the key to the game,” Voorhees said. “You can never work enough on fundamentals and that is what we will be doing for the next four days of practice.”

“I’m so happy and so proud of every single girl, on the court, on the bench and all of the coaches,” Rossi said. “It is amazing.”

Clare Kurtz and Sam Seljeskog had seven kills each for the Cobblers (9-20), while Bailey Johnson had 12 assists.

Despite the loss, Deming said they played much better at the end of the year than they did early on.

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“The girls, every day they got better,” she said. “They worked hard and they never gave up. That’s what I liked about tonight; they could have given up. But they fought for every point. It’s sad to see it come to an end, but I told them to look at the positives they had this season and that is what they need to focus on.”

SIOUX FALLS O’GORMAN 3, SPEARFISH 1: Despite dropping the opening set of its Class AA Sweet 16 matchup with Spearfish on Thursday, Sioux Falls O’Gorman bounced back to take the next three sets and punch its ticket to the state tournament.

The Spartans got off to a good start, taking the first set 25-22.

In the next set, the Knights got back into it as they scored a hard fought 29-27 victory to tie the match at one set apiece.

From there it was all O’Gorman as it went on to win the third set 25-10, before closing out the match with a 25-12 fourth set.

No other information made available for this match.

The Knights (17-15) will play in the state tournament starting next Thursday at the Civic Center, while Spearfish’s season ends at 16-13.

MITCHELL 3, STURGIS 0: Mitchell had little trouble in the Sweet 16 round of the Class AA playoffs as it cruised past the Scoopers for the straight set victory on Thursday.

The Kernals started the match with a 25-13 win in the first set, before closing it out with a pair of 25-13 wins in the second and third sets.

No other information was made available for this match.

Mitchell (20-4) awaits its first round matchup for next week’s state tournament, and the Scoopers close out the season at 9-17.

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Sports Reporter

Sports reporter for the Rapid City Journal.