Harrisburg sophomore outside hitter Kaelyn Snoozy turned to her team and held up her index fingers. “One more,” she yelled. But then she put her hands on top of her head.
The feeling, on the cusp of it and after the Tigers’ 3-1 win to secure a Class AA volleyball title Saturday at Denny Sanford Premier Center, was shock. Senior setter Kayleigh Hybertson said the Tigers only recently thought it: “I think we’re the best team in the state.” Not many had them there when it settled in for Harrisburg, not many had them there when they gained steam with a strong start of the season and practically no one had them at the beginning of the season.
“But it’s real,” Hybertson said with a laugh after the Championship match.
Harrisburg head Coach Ronette Costain said the Tigers usually don’t express to their team “we’re going to state” at the beginning of the year, but this team needed to believe. There were a lot of young players on the roster around a strong core of seniors, and Costain knew that the team could be special. They adopted the saying, “Dare to be great.” And from their 3-0 opening win against Brandon Valley to their 3-0 win over O’Gorman to, of course, Saturday, the Tigers always had expectations separate from that of the rest of the state. And beneath them, they became the best team in Class AA.
“We stuck with it all season,” Costain said. “They were great. They’re scary good.”
Freshman outside hitter Gabrielle Zachariasen led Harrisburg with 21 kills in the game, followed by 11 from senior right side hitter Morissen Samuels and 10 from sophomore middle hitter Karalynn Leach. Senior libero Maggie Meiser had 24 digs to lead the Tigers defense. The Cavaliers, who kept each set within three points (25-22, 23-25, 22-25, 23-25), got 11 kills from junior outside hitter Ella Kvernmo and 10 kills from senior middle hitter Madison Paulsen in its first trip to the state title match.
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The first set brought a lot of back-and-forth, and Jefferson — more often than not — was on the front end. The Tigers were sparked with a few big kills from Zachariasen and then a few service aces in a row, but Jefferson soon found a run of his own.
By the time Zachariasen re-tied the game at 12, Jefferson would be the first to string a few points together. Harrisburg was always right behind them, but not close enough as the Cavaliers finished off the first set.
“We just talked about calming our nerves,” Samuels said, “and being able to play our game.”
Hybertson, Samuels, and everyone with Harrisburg agreed: Maybe it’s just not a first set team. The Tigers lost all three of their first sets in the state tournament, and it worked out for them in the previous two games before the title game. By the time the second set got going, the young Harrisburg team had found its rhythm again. Harrisburg jumped out to a lead and, in that same back-and-forth motion, held on to win it. At times dominant, it looked dominant. But a few Mistakes kept the Cavaliers somewhat close.
But not close enough. Harrisburg, even as the Cavaliers made them work for every set win, was just a step ahead. Like during the season, there weren’t necessarily any nerves to get over. There weren’t some young-player Mistakes to look past. There wasn’t a time they needed to “turn the corner.” The Tigers just did what the Tigers do. It went “full throttle the entire way,” Costain said.
“We were all saying in the locker room, ‘It didn’t feel real,'” Samuels said. “It was just another game that we had to push through to finish.”
Sioux Falls Christian wins sixth-straight Class A state title
Sioux Falls Christian won its sixth-straight Class A title, beating Elkton-Lake Benton 3-1 in the state final match. The Chargers, who entered the state tournament as the No. 4 seed, quickly reestablished themselves as the team to beat with a 3-0 win over 26-8 Dakota Valley in the quarterfinal round.
More:State volleyball: Elk Point-Jefferson pulls upset, Defending Champs win
The Chargers topped the Elks 25-14, 25-20, then dropped the third 25-23 before finishing off the match with a 25-13 fourth-set win. Senior middle hitter Ellie Lems had a whopping 31 kills and senior outside hitter Peyton Poppema led the Chargers’ defense with 26 digs. Sophomore outside hitter Andrea Renkly and senior outside hitter Rachael Krog each had 10 kills for ELB.
Warner repeats in Class B state title match
Warner won its second-straight Class B volleyball title Saturday, knocking off No. 3 Chester Area 3-1 (25-23, 25-16, 14-25, 26-24) in the state title match at the Denny Sanford Premier Center.
The Monarchs, who were only beaten twice this season, lost just two sets the entire state tournament en route to a repeat year in Class B. Star junior setter Ava Nilsson had 46 assists to lead Warner, with sophomore middle hitter Kyleigh Schopp picking up 22 Kills and junior outside hitter Kyra Marcuson tallying 15. Chester Area got 17 Kills from freshman middle/outside hitter Lily VanHal as the Flyers took the third set, then nearly took a second in a row as it forced a 24-24 score in the fourth set before Warner pulled back away to secure the win.
Championship: #3 Harrisburg defeated #4 Sioux Falls Jefferson 3-1 (22-25, 25-23, 25-22, 25-23)
3rd/4th Place: #1 Sioux Falls Washington defeated #2 O’Gorman 3-1 (27-25, 21-25, 25-19, 25-18)
5th/6th Place: #5 Pierre defeated #6 Sioux Falls Lincoln 3-0 (25-19, 25-16, 25-19)
7th/8th Place: #7 Huron defeated #8 Rapid City Stevens 3-0 (25-23, 25-19, 25-14)
Championship: #4 Sioux Falls Christian defeated #3 Elkton-Lake Benton 3-1 (25-14, 25-20, 23-25, 25-13)
3rd/4th Place: #8 Elk Point-Jefferson defeated #2 Miller 3-1 (18-25, 25-21, 25-21, 25-22)
5th/6th Place: #5 Dakota Valley defeated #7 Platte-Geddes 3-2 (23-25, 25-17, 25-17, 17-25, 15-9)
7th/8th Place: #1 Wagner defeated #6 Belle Fourche 3-1 (25-17, 19-25, 25-17, 25-20)
Championship: #1 Warner defeated #3 Chester Area 3-1 (25-23, 25-16, 14-25, 26-24)
3rd/4th Place: #5 Wolsey-Wessington defeated #2 Burke 3-1 (19-25, 25-19, 26-24, 26-24)
5th/6th Place: #4 Northwestern defeated #7 Castlewood 3-0 (25-22, 25-13, 25-11)
7th/8th Place: #6 Colman-Egan defeated #8 Freeman 3-1 (17-25, 25-22, 25-20, 25-16)
Follow Sioux Falls Argus Leader Reporter Michael McCleary on Twitter @mikejmccleary.