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Knights defeat Roncalli in five sets

Aberdeen Christian’s Hanna Miller, far left and Mary Fites, center, celebrate winning a point as Aberdeen Roncalli’s Olivia Hanson, back right and Madelyn Bragg, back far right, walk away from the net during Monday night’s match at the Aberdeen Christian School gym. In the foreground at far right is Christian’s Grace Kaiser (12). Photo by John Davis taken 9/20/2021

A remarkable week just kept getting better for the Aberdeen Christian volleyball team.

In the past five days, the Knights defeated the top-rated team in the state (Wolsey-Wessington), won the Ipswich tournament, became the first team in school history to be rated in the sport, and topped it off with a first-ever volleyball win over Aberdeen Roncalli Monday night.

Christian rallied past the Cavaliers 19-25, 25-14, 21-25, 25-17, 15-7 in non-conference action at the Aberdeen Christian Gym.

“These girls have put the work in. It’s our time. I’ve believed for three years that these girls have had something special. I knew it was going to take some time to get there,” said Christian coach Maggie Jett. “They have trusted in me and they have trusted in this process. We’re not done, yet. I don’t think we’ve peaked, yet. We’re floating right now. It feels pretty good.”

It was a night that featured plenty of ebb and flow, and maximum effort as the two local squads went toe-to-toe.

“There’s nothing to be upset about at the end of this kind of a match,” said Roncalli coach Mandy Smid. “Both teams just fought really hard, laid it out there on the court and gave it our best.”

The teams traded the first four sets in alternating fashion.

Jett had a message for her players heading into the pivotal fifth set.

“I just told them, don’t play scared,” Jett said. “I said you guys can beat this team, but you have to believe it and you have to play like it.”

The Knights took control early in the final set jumping out to a 6-1 lead.

Grace Kaiser played a key role in the surge with a kill and an ace. The Knights never led by less than three points the rest of the way to secure the victory.

“It’s just something really special,” Kaiser of her team’s accomplishments so far this season, “because we’ve worked so hard for this.”

Whether scrambling on defense or using a variety of weapons on offense, Christian was able to keep the Cavaliers’ offense from doing major damage.

“They’re really good. They have good hitters, but our serve receive was really good all night and our passers,” Kaiser said. “Our hitting, we just were able to execute some things. We were able to force them to make mistakes instead of us.”

Kaiser finished with nine kills and three aces on the night.

“I’m just thankful for the opportunity to play,” Kaiser said. “I give all the glory to God.”

The senior’s effort drew the praise of her coach following the hard-fought match.

“Super proud of Grace Kaiser, probably her best game of the season by far,” Jett said. “She wanted this bad tonight.”

Hanna Miller had a match-high 23 kills to go along six blocks. Mary Fites added 15 kills. Kaylee Block had 48 set assists.

“Hanna got some big swings for us,” Jett said. “Kaylee kept working hard getting the ball to those hitters.”

Joy Rohrbach led the Knights with 38 digs, including an extra special one early in the second set. That’s when the senior recorded her 2,000th career dig.

Madelyn Bragg topped Roncalli with 18 kills. Ella Hanson finished with eight kills, four aces and 46 digs.

Smid was proud of the way her team competed throughout the match.

“We fought back from some deficits and really showed that fight that we’re looking for against a good team,” Smid said. “They’re one of the top teams in Class B.”

In the end, Christian’s defense brought enough balls back to thwart multiple Roncalli attacks.

“We preached this idea of playing aggressively and letting the other teams scramble, and forcing them to be out of system and I think our girls did that tonight,” Smid said. “They were out of system quite a few times, but we just weren’t quite able to hang on in a few of those longer rallies and to capitalize on them.”

Roncalli, 7-4 on the season, plays at Webster on Thursday.

Christian, 11-1 on the season and rated fourth in the latest Class B poll, hosts Waubay-Summit this evening.

After a week of firsts for the program, it now has another first for the foreseeable future: the Knights will now be the hunted instead of being the hunter.

“I think we’ve kind of flown under the radar for a while, but we’re not going to be able to do that anymore. We welcome it. It’s what we’ve been working for,” Jett said. “I think these girls can handle whatever pressure comes our way. I think they’re just excited to see what they can do this season.”

Serving: Aberdeen Roncalli 76-85 10 aces (Ella Hanson 13-14 4 aces, Maddie Huber 17-18 2 aces); Aberdeen Christian 82-95 6 aces (Grace Kaiser 21-24 3 aces, Emily Schwan 15-17 2 aces).

Hitting: Aberdeen Roncalli 121-149 37 kills (Madelyn Bragg 41-48 18 kills, E. Hanson 33-42 8 kills); Aberdeen Christian 106-118 56 kills (Hanna Miller 36-42 23 kills, Mary Fites 33-39 15 kills, Kaiser 13-13 9 kills).

Setting: Aberdeen Roncalli (Olivia Hanson 156-156 35 assists); Aberdeen Christian (Kaylee Block 102-110 48 assists).

Digs: Aberdeen Roncalli 169 (E. Hanson 46, Jeci Ewart 32); Aberdeen Christian 98 (Joy Rohrbach 38, Ruth Hulscher 19).

Blocks: Aberdeen Roncalli 1 solo 8 assists (Bragg 4 assists, Jaidyn Feickert 2 assists); Aberdeen Christian 8 solos 10 assists (Mallory Miller 4 solos 4 assists, H. Miller 2 solos 4 assists).

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