GETTYSBURG – The Aberdeen Christian Knights overcame a start they would like to forget for a finish they will always remember Tuesday night.
Christian earned its first ever trip to the State Volleyball Tournament with a 20-25, 25-16, 25-12, 25-17 victory over Philip in Class B SoDak 16 action in Gettysburg.
Interestingly enough, the accomplishment took place in the same city where the program played its first ever match on a Saturday back in August of 2007. The Knights are now 24-3 on the season and own a 10-match winning streak.
Christian got off to a rough start in its latest victory, however, as the Scotties claimed the opening set.
“I definitely think the girls had some jitters going into it. We talked about it in the locker room that we just need to not play tight and play confidently and come out with energy, and they pretty much did the opposite of that to start,” said Christian coach Maggie Jett. “I think just getting over the nerves of what was at stake and remembering what they’re capable of, what kind of team they can be and what they wanted to accomplish, it definitely showed up in sets two, three and four.”
Not only that, but the Knights were finally able to slow down Philip power hitter Copper Lurz as the match went on.
“We made a few adjustments on our block that I think might have gotten in her head just a little bit. We had a conversation in one of our timeouts that she’s going to get her kills. She’s just that good of a player,” Jett said. “We tried to focus on what we were doing and not what she was doing, understanding that one player can’t beat a team of six doing our thing.”
One of those six was Mallory Miller who had a huge match. The 6-foot-4 junior had 13 kills to go along with a team-leading eight blocks, including seven solo blocks.
“She’s really come into her own the last couple of games. She’s just really finding her groove right now,” Jett said. “She’s making a huge impact for the team for sure.”
Another key was Christian’s improvement in passing throughout the match which allowed the Knights to set up their offense. Once that happened, the Scotties had no answer for Christian’s multiple hitters who ended up pounding out 45 kills, led by Mary Fites with 14.
“We did not pass well the first set,” Jett said. “I kept telling the girls, ‘We have to be in system. If we can run our offense and we can attack at them like we can, that’s going to be a key.’ A lot of credit to (the Scotties). They were very scrappy on defense, but it was hard for them to stop us when we were in system because our hitters did a nice job at the net tonight.”
Kaylee Block led the team with four aces and 35 set assists to go along with a pair of solo blocks.
The Knights are playing with confidence, especially after knocking off defending State B champion Northwestern last Thursday in the Region 1B semifinals. It was Christian’s first ever win over the Wildcats.
“I think Thursday night was just huge for us. To be able to take down Northwestern, that’s something I think they’ve only dreamed of doing,” Jett said. “The talent that they have is now backed up by that confidence.”
Christian will now face a familiar foe in the opening round of the state tourney, taking on Warner at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18 in Rapid City. The Monarchs won a previous matchup early in the season.
“Our team is in such a different place than we were when we played them the second game of the season. I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Jett said. “It’s the state tournament and Class B is just crazy this year. I hope the girls can just keep playing confidently and have fun.”
Philip stats not available
Serving: Aberdeen Christian 86-92 5 aces (Kaylee Block 22-23 4 aces, Ruth Hulscher 7-8 1 ace).
Hitting: Aberdeen Christian 112-124 45 kills (Mary Fites 37-38 14 kills, Mallory Miller 26-30 13 kills).
Setting: Aberdeen Christian (Block 93-94 35 assists).
Digs: Aberdeen Christian 88 (Joy Rohrbach 31, Hanna Miller 14).
Blocks: Aberdeen Christian 2 solos 12 assists (M. Miller 7 solos 1 assist, Grace Kaiser 2 solos, Block 2 solos).
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