After a lackluster performance in Thursday night’s first round game of the 2019 Class AA State volleyball tournament, Rapid City Stevens came out determined to regain some Raider pride and put a positive spin on their tournament experience.
The Raiders did so, and with emphasis, sweeping Sioux Falls Lincoln 25-18, 25-23, 25-12 avenging a regular season loss to the Patriots in the process.
"They did an awesome job today,” Raider coach Kylie Voorhees said. “After last night, we restructured our goals. You come in here hoping to make it to the finals and that dream is taken away and you have to regroup and reset. We just said now we are playing for fifth and sixth and we wanted to go out better than we came in. We were ranked 7th and now we are guaranteed fifth or sixth, and I’m hoping for fifth.”
The Raider winning effort reflected a night and day attitude adjustment from the disappointing performance exhibited in Thursday’s straight set loss to O’Gorman.
“I told the team in the locker room that we had a choice to make,” Voorhees said. “There are times in life when you are going to lose and how you come back off that loss reflects who you are. They did that by coming back and beating a team that we lost to early in the season. And proved that we are the Raiders.”
A solid start in the opening set went a long way toward regaining confidence after Thursday night's debacle. Senior Kyah Watson was a big contributor to making that happen, enabling the Raiders to grab a 13-8 lead. Lincoln closed to within 14-12 before a Bailey Sobczak left-side crosscourt winner and service ace coupled with a couple of Patriot attack errors provided some breathing room as Stevens closed out the first set 25-18.
“Kyah is always reliable. You can throw the ball at her and she will put the ball down the line or across or wherever it needs to be,” senior hitter Sammi Sundby said. “It was important for us to win that first set. I think our lack of experience maybe showed yesterday (Thursday) and coming out today and winning the first set made a big difference. I don’t know what happened yesterday. We don’t really have any excuses but against a team like that you have to show up and play and we didn’t do that.”
The second set was a nail-biter first serve to last with the largest lead a two-point advantage held by Lincoln on a couple of occasions before Stevens drew even at 16-all. A series of Lincoln attack errors allowed the Raiders to grab a 22-18 advantage, and seemingly control of the set before spikes by Patriots' Sydni Wietfeld and Caelyn Taylor, part of a 5-0 run, put Lincoln up 23-22.
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Gut-check time faced, and answered.
A Sobczak left-side blast down the line off a quality set by Raider junior setter, Julia Lee, a Lincoln spike that sailed just long, and a mid-hit winner by Jayda McNabb closed out the set 25-23.
“The passing was good today and made my job a lot easier. I was getting perfect balls and because of that was able to setup the hitters and make our offense go,” said Lee who had a seven-point service game in the match along with game high 22 assists. “With our serving, we were able to pinpoint who their weaker passers were and once we were able to do that, we just kept serving at them. And I think we had a lot more confidence today that we did last night. Last night (Thursday) we were a little nervy and hit a lot of balls into the net but today we played with a lot of confidence and were able to get the ball over the net.”
The third set had the making of another back-and-fourth affair with Stevens clinging to a 13-11 lead midway through the set. Let the fun begin as Stevens captured 12 of the final 13 points including a four point serving game—and two aces—by Sobczak to close out the set, 25-12, and match.
“I actually have served all season,” said Sobczak, who in addition to four aces in the match had a team leading eight kills for the Raiders, “This is my first time playing backrow and serving so to get out there and serve well was all about confidence. But the energy and the support of my teammates really gave me that confidence.”
As for the 18-hour turnaround in fortunes. Simply a matter of playing Raider volleyball according to coach Voorhees.
“We just played our game. I think the girls came out today more relaxed with a “been there, done that” mentality. And good things happen when you pass the ball. I’ve been saying all season long that we don’t have just one hitter. We have Jayda McNabb and Sammi (Sundby), Syd Beasley, all kinds of hitters and when you get the ball to the setter you are able to run an efficient offense,” said Voorhees while admitting that perhaps the confidence boost from the win was felt on the bench as well. “You are feeling a little bit down and rethinking all that you’ve done during the season when you don’t play as well as you would like so I’m super proud of how they came back today.”
In addition to Sobczak’s eight kills, Sundby had six, Beasley and Watson contributed five apiece while Lee and McNabb chipped in with four each. Laura Petik led the backrow contingent with 11 digs.
Bailey Plourde led the Patriot attack with 8 kills, Chloe Brown tallied 12 assists and libero Sydni Wietfeld had 16 digs.
With the win, the Raiders (23-11) earned a spot in Saturday’s consolation championship game and a 10:45 a.m. meeting with Sioux Falls Roosevelt (20-10) while Lincoln (14-11) will face Harrisburg (15-12) in the seventh-place game (9 a.m.).