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Dome trip provides multiple assignments, memories

Herreid/Selby Area and Howard players take part in the coin toss before Thursday’s Class 9A Championship game at the DakotaDome in Vermillion. Photo by John Davis taken 11/11/2021

Through the years I’ve had some memorable trips to the football championships in Vermillion, but this past week will rank right near the top of the list.

As John Davis and I take off on Wednesday afternoon it is raining, and we know that the weather might play a role in our travel plans for the return trip on Thursday. The goal is to possibly double back and shoot a bit of the Aberdeen Central SoDak 16 volleyball match at Sioux Falls Lincoln before heading back to Aberdeen.

Before we could even get five miles out of town, I receive an alert that the start of the volleyball match has been moved up from 6 p.m. to 4 p.m. because of impending weather. That is problematic on two fronts. One, it might mean that our chances of getting back in time to catch any of the volleyball will be difficult. Two, it for sure means that we need to take the weather situation seriously.

Our games are scheduled for 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the DakotaDome on Thursday. At best, if the games are on schedule, we will depart Vermillion around 4 p.m. for the hour-long trek to Sioux Falls which will put us in the middle of the volleyball match. At worst, if the games run late, we will have no chance to catch any of the match.

The first football game goes into double overtime, which all but guarantees any chance to see volleyball is gone.

Well, not quite. The second game features a running clock in the second half which puts us back in the hunt. The game concludes, we wrap up our post-game interviews and walk outside to a windstorm.

As we travel back to Sioux Falls, John monitors both the weather and the volleyball.

While I do not drive over the limit (at least not much), I do probably overdrive the conditions in my haste to have any shot at getting to the volleyball. As John warns me, we are soon driving into moisture which makes the conditions even less desirable.

John is able to get periodic updates on the volleyball. We find out that Lincoln has won the first two sets more rapidly than what we desire, and it appears our haste will be all for naught.

Soon, we find out that Central is making a comeback and is in control of the third set. We just might be able to pull this off after all.

The Golden Eagles force a fourth set. That, combined with the fact that we are able to take the bypass to miss out on the 5 p.m. Sioux Falls traffic rush, helps our cause.

Aberdeen Central’s Madi Struble, left and Grace Kuch, center, reach to tip the ball at the net as teammate Sydney Evans, lower right, looks on during Thursday night’s volleyball match at the Lincoln High School gym. Photo by John Davis taken 11/11/2021

We pull into the Lincoln parking lot around 5:15, I drop John off at the front door, and he is able to start taking photos at 14-6 in the fourth set.

I join him soon afterward for what is left of the match. I do a couple of post-match interviews and then wonder if we are even going to be able to make it back to Aberdeen.

We understand things would have been OK had we not made it to the match. There would be quality coverage all the same, but it means something to us to be a part of it in person and we hope it does for the Golden Eagles as well.

On the way home as we squint through persistent snowflakes moving sideways in the wind, John and I joke about how life would be much easier at home on the couch watching games, but not nearly as fun or challenging as what we are experiencing.

For that, this year’s trip to Vermillion will forever rank near the top of our travel memories.

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