Rapid City Stevens volleyball came into the Class AA SoDak 16 as the No. 1 seed, and a heavy favorite over No. 16 seed Sturgis.
The Raiders left no doubt, winning in straight sets 25-9, 25-11 and 25-14 to advance to the state tournament at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in Sioux Falls.
At 31-1, Stevens will face No. 9 seed Brookings who topped No. 8 seed Aberdeen Central in four sets 25-23, 25-17, 17-25, 25-15.
"It feels really good, the girls did what they were supposed to do," Stevens coach Kylie Voorhees said. "They were told to stay focused and disciplined and I told them that this game was going to set the course for the rest of their season. If they wanted that season to continue they had to set the tone tonight and I thought they did a good job of that."
The Scoopers finished the season 9-22 and coach Traci Fransen said she was happy with the improvements she saw her team make throughout the season.
"It’s always good to see them battle throughout, even if we’re down by 10, 11 or 12 points it’s nice to see the girls have that fight and not give up on the match and always know there’s a chance to come back," she said. "We had our roller-coaster up and downs but overall I noticed their improvements in the things we focused on through practice throughout the season."
Stevens got off to a hot start with a 10-2 early lead in the first set, and it stretched that lead to 18-7. The Raiders ended the set on a 7-2 run.
The second set started off in a similar way, with Stevens getting out to another 10-2 lead that turned into a 15-5 lead before the Raiders ended on a 10-6 run to take the second set.
Sturgis was more competitive early on in the third set, tying the set at three early on before the Raiders scored the next 12 points. Still, the Scoopers didn't lie down, scoring 6 of the next 10 points to make it 19-8.
"Coming in we knew it was going to be a difficult match, Stevens has had a great program and a great year, so we were coming in here to play competitively, play scrappy and bring some energy and put a little pressure on those guys," Fransen said. "We didn’t want it to be a match where they just came in and rolled over us.
"We came out with some energy and made some scrappy plays but after the game it is disappointing for our season to end but overall I think they’re proud of how they played and I’m proud of how they played."
Sturgis ended the third set on a 6-5 run, but those five would be what the Raiders needed to advance to the state tournament.
Voorhees said she was happy with the serving of the Raiders, and how evenly her team was able to spread out its offense.
"I think our serving set the tone for the game and created that separation, as well as our defensive setting helping our offense," she said. "We can be a really solid team as long as we pass and play defense. Our setter has to know who her hot hitters are and be smart, we have a strategy going into every match and she has to run with that strategy."
She also said that while Stevens isn't overlooking any game in the postseason, she knows who could pose a threat if the Raiders get that far.
No. 2 seed Sioux Falls Washington comes into the tournament at 28-5 after taking care of business against Spearfish in straight sets 25-6, 25-9, 25-10 while No. 3 seed Sioux Falls O'Gorman is 27-5 after a four set win over Sioux Falls Lincoln in the SoDak 16 25-15, 20-25, 25-7, 25-11. Voorhees said both will be tough outs in the state tournament.
"Washington and O’Gorman are both very, very good teams," she said. "I think in some situations height can intimidate us, even though we’re a pretty tall team ourselves, so I think either one of those teams can create a really good match for us. If we come across one of those teams we have to stay confident."
The tournament begins Thursday in Sioux Falls.