The Faith Lady Longhorns were hoping that three might indeed be a lucky charm as the Western South Dakota squad was making a third consecutive Class B State tournament appearance following a third-place finish in last year’s state tournament.
Unfortunately, it was not to be as the Lady Longhorns struggled in service receiving and fell to defending champion Warner 25-18, 25-20, 25-14 in Thursday afternoon opening round Class B State volleyball action at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
The first set established the tone that would characterize play throughout the match as Warner raced out to a 13-3 lead, a cushion built upon Faith’s inability to handle Warner’s serving game--5 of the team’s 14 aces in the early stretch--and thus unable to setup the offense.
“We came out serving very aggressively and that’s what we knew we needed to do if we were going to beat them,” Warner coach Kari Jung said. “We knew that if we stayed aggressive and served well, we could keep them out of their system.”
A four-point Faith run in the middle of the set narrowed the Warner advantage. And a rally late in the set made the set score look respectable, though the early disadvantage proved insurmountable as hope of a sustained rally consistently fell victim to another Monarch serve winner.
“We knew they were a good serving team and we thought we were ready but we couldn’t pass the ball,” Faith coach Mandy Lemmel said. “When we did pass the ball, it seemed like things worked, but when you are unable to pass the ball it’s hard to set up your offense. We worked on the hard serves in practice but in this atmosphere, you never know what’s going to happen.”
Hope flickered briefly in the second set as the Lady Longhorns rallied back from a 5-9 deficit behind a big service game by senior setter Sydnie Schauer to draw even at 10-all. Big hits by junior Aiyana Byrd helped keep Faith close as the set remained nip-and-tuck until with the score knotted at 20 apiece, Warner tallied the final five points, including two aces, to close out the set 25-20.
“When we could get our setter over the net, Aiyana can do some impressive things for us,” Lemmel said. “Hopefully we can pass better the rest of the tournament and give her some chances.”
Among the points to close out the set were two of a game leading 17 kills by Warner sophomore Jennifer Aman often resulting from right side flares.
“We like to run the side because you can find some better shots that way where we think the other team is a little weaker defensively,” Jung said. “And have improved our hitting a lot from the beginning of the season. Jennifer Aman was swinging really well today and Danille Seymour (nine kills) did well in the middle.”
Another slow start in the third set with Faith falling behind 14-3 put the final capper on Faith's hopes as the Lady Longhorns continued to struggle with passing and were forced to throw up free balls which the Warner front row often turned into points.
Faith did tighten up the attack later in the set, though were unable to draw closer than nine points as the set played out.
“The girls battled back in the second set, and even as far as we were down in the other sets, we made some comebacks, made some plays, and started to feel a little more comfortable and I’m proud of them for that,” Lemmel added.
For a young Warner squad with a tradition of excellence reflected in five Class B state titles, the heady atmosphere of a Barnett Arena state tournament appearance proved inspirational.
“They had some really good hitters and when they got them the ball we were struggling to defend it,” coach Jung said. “But today we came ready to play and it was fun to see.”
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Byrd led Faith with 12 kills, while Schauer contributed 18 assists and 10 digs.
Warner (28-9) advances to Friday semifinal play meeting top-seeded and undefeated Northwestern (39-0), while Faith (30-4) moves into afternoon consolation play (1 p.m.) against Bridgewater-Emery (28-7).
NORTHWESTERN 3, BRIDGEWATER-EMERY 0: The Wildcats kept their unbeaten record intact with a straight set victory over Bridgewater-Emery in the first round of the Class B state tournament on Thursday.
Northwestern cruised past the Huskies with scores of 25-10, 25-13 and 25-10.
Sydney Schell led the Wildcats with 22 kills, Madalyn Groft had 31 assists and Hannah Schentzel finished with 17 digs.
Kerrigan Schultz paced the Huskies with 12 assists and 12 digs.
Northwestern will play Warner in the semifinals today at 4:30 p.m., while Bridgewater-Emery takes on Faith at 1 p.m.
BURKE 3, ETHAN 0: The Cougars picked up a win over Ethan in their first matchup of the Class B tournament Thursday in Rapid City.
Burke opened with a 25-20 win in the first, took the second 25-15 and closed it out with a tough 26-24 victory in the third.
Lainee Schonebaum paced the Cougars with 16 kills, Taylee Indahl added 15 kills and Bobbi Jo Wischmann finished with 25 assists.
Jada Plastow led the way for the Rustlers with 14 kills, Cameryn Logan chipped in with 12 kills and Jessica Bartscher had 28 assists.
Burke will play Faulkton Area in the semifinals tonight at 6:15 p.m., while Ethan takes on Chester Area in the consolation bracket at 2:45 p.m.
FAULKTON AREA 3, CHESTER AREA 2: The seventh-seeded Trojans earned a big victory in the first round of the Class B state tournament with a win over second-seeded Chester Area on Thursday.
Faulkton won the first set 25-19, before the Flyers stormed back to take a 2-1 lead with victories of 25-21 and 25-11.
The Trojans regained the momentum with a 25-22 win in the fourth and followed it with a narrow 17-15 victory in the fifth.
Peyton Melius led Faulkton with 26 kills, while Morgan Gutenkauf had 19 assists and Isabel Aesoph finished with 17 assists and 22 digs.
Makenna Larson led the way for Chester with 19 kills and 25 digs, while Kenna Brown paced the team in assists with 40.