The Rapid City Stevens volleyball team put out a little "don't look past us just yet," message with a three-set win over crosstown rival Rapid City Central Thursday night at Carold Heier Gymnasium.
The Raiders are the defending Class AA state champions, after all.
Stevens beat the Cobblers 25-18, 27-25 and 25-21 to move to 6-3 on the season.
A change in the lineup has Stevens head coach Kylie Voorhees feeling much better about things these days. She said that change is broadening their offense and helping defensively as well.
"I like the change and I think it is giving us some confidence," Voorhees said. "I think we are going to continue to build and grow off of that. We're slowly going to turn into that team to beat, I have no doubt."
The Raiders are trying to find their own identity after losing several of their top players through graduation, including State Player of the Year Elizabeth Schaefer, along with Phebie Rossi, Carley Buehner and Marlee Schneider
"We are learning to be comfortable with each other and not really compare ourselves to last year, and just worry about what we can do this year to be good," said senior hitter Kyah Watson said.
Thursday the Raiders overcame a 5-0 Central start in the first set before controlling action down the stretch, and then getting a big break for the game two win.
Leading 25-24, the Cobblers appeared to have the set won on a stuff/kill by senior Rhiannon Nez, but she was called for roofing and the point belonged to Stevens, tying the set at 25-all.
The Raiders then put the set away on a tip by Watson and when Watson's serve hit the top of the net and bounced on the Central side for the point.
Instead of being tied at one set apiece, the Raiders were in control. Stevens took a 3-2 lead on a kill by Jayda McNabb and never trailed again.
"Honestly, I just think we made a lot of smart plays at the ends of each set; we just knew who to go to," Voorhees said. "We made less errors and played our game. In the rest of the game that led us to be in the bind that we were in, we were creating points for them. When we didn't do that, like starting the third set, they (Central) were having to focus on creating their own points."
Central coach Jeanne Deming said mistakes hurt her team throughout the night, but especially at the end of the second set.
"It was a judgement call, it was her call, but we have to overcome that," Deming said. "We have to play hard, and I don't think that we played hard throughout all three sets tonight."
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Deming said the Cobblers just couldn't keep the momentum on their side.
"We would make a mistake, and instead of overcoming that, we would dwell on it and just not move forward," she said. "We can't make two or three mistakes in a row. One mistake is okay, we have to learn from it. But when we do two or three, you can't do that against a good team."
Central made a couple of runs in the match, including the third set when they trailed 24-18. Three mistakes by the Raiders made it a 24-21 game before a block ended the match.
"When we would get in a lull, we just had to stay calm and just focus on our pass and our set, then put the ball down and be smart with it," Watson said.
Watson and Bailee Sobczak had two blocks each, something that is getting better with the new lineup.
"Blocking is something we have been working on, and it is improving the more we do it," Watson said.
Watson finished with nine kills, with three Raiders — Sydney Beasley, McNabb and Sammi Sundby — all finishing with six kills.
Setter Cami Mettler had 17 assists and Laura Petik finished with 10 digs.
Voorhees said she feels good about where they are at and where they are going because they are finding more options with their new lineup.
"There are going to be a lot of teams out there that are going to be in for a surprise at what we are doing," she said. "I think we'll shock a few teams and we're going to pull out some big wins."
Nez led the Cobblers, 5-4, with eight kills, while Ramsey Deming had 12 assists and 14 digs, and Julia Russell had two blocks.
Despite the loss, Jeanne Deming said the season is early and that is exactly what she told her team in the locker room after the match.
"I said we have to just focus on the positives," she said. "Obviously there are things we have to work on, but every player brings something to this team. We're going to do some things this year."
Stevens returns to action Tuesday at Sturgis, while Central takes on Sioux Falls Lincoln and Roosevelt Sept. 20 at Stevens.