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Christian carries confidence, momentum into first state tourney

Aberdeen Christian’s Mary Fites, left, goes after the ball with Northwestern’s Mack Stoltenberg, right, during a Region 1B volleyball match at the Groton High School gym. The Knights take on Warner this evening in the opening round of the Class B State Volleyball Tournament this evening in Rapid City. Photo by John Davis taken 11/4/2021

RAPID CITY – Aberdeen Christian, which had a 12-match winning streak earlier in the season, has currently won 10 consecutive matches heading into its first Class B State Volleyball Tournament.

The Knights (23-3) feature a tall lineup with a front line that measures 6-foot-4, 6-1, 5-10, 5-10. The squad is led in kills by Mary Fites with 288 and Hanna Miller with 237. Fites also leads the team in aces with 52, followed by Kaylee Block with 46.

Christian coach Maggie Jett said a big key for her team is serve receive which allows the Knights to get into system.

“I’ve gone back and looked though our big games and I’ve gone back and looked at our three losses and showed the girls the difference in our passing stats for each of those games,” Jett said. “That is the difference. If we can pass, we can hit and if we can hit, we’re hard to defend. That’s definitely a key to this and something that we’ve been working on.”

Jett knows that the state-tourney atmosphere will be something knew to her players and has done her best to try to prepare them for the moment. The girls got to experience that atmosphere last spring with the Aberdeen Christian boys’ basketball team played in a state tourney.

“I’m glad we got to go experience it from a fan’s perspective with the boys just so they have kind of an idea what it’s like. Obviously, it’s different with volleyball,” Jett said. “We’ve been preparing them letting them know what we know.”

Christian will open the tourney against a familiar foe in Warner. The two teams played the opening week of the season with the Monarchs sweeping that match.

Jett said many things have changed since that encounter.

“They’re playing some pretty good volleyball right now. I would say we are, too. I think that the first time we played them they were playing pretty good volleyball and we were not,” Jett said. “I just think we are a different team than we were at the beginning of the season when we first faced them. We figured out a lot of stuff in between then and now. I’m really looking forward to the game. I think if the girls can keep their nerves at bay and just go out and play their best game, I think it could be a much different match.”

Jett has said all season long that she hasn’t felt like her squad has peaked, yet. She still feels that way.

“I wasn’t sure going into that Northwestern game. The girls kind of surprised me,” Jett said. “OK, what else do you have to show? I don’t know where that cap is for them. I know their potential. I know that they can do more. It’s just a matter if they can find it in time for (our match tonight).”

One thing is for sure, the Knights will be riding a wave of momentum as they head into this year’s state tournament.

“Some of the biggest things for us is continuing to let our forward upcoming momentum and confidence that we’ve been building kind of drive us,” Jett said. “The girls are focused. The girls are hungry. They’re tasting what this feels like and they’re liking it.”

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