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Faulkton finds right blend for another trip to state

Faulkton Area’s Isabel Aesoph, center, hits the ball past Aberdeen Roncalli’s Ava Hanson, left, during a match earlier this season at the Roncalli High School gym. Looking on are Roncalli’s Olivia Hanson (10) and Faulkton Area’s Camryn Deiter. The Trojans will face Arlington tonight in the opening round of the Class B State Volleyball Tournament in Rapid City. Photo by John Davis taken 10/19/2021

RAPID CITY – Faulkton is making its fourth straight appearance in the Class B State Volleyball Tournament and the Trojans enter the event winning 20 of their last 22 matches.

The squad (26-6) features a different mix from last year’s team as younger players have moved up to fill new roles.

“This year I have a lot more of a mixture of people who have played a fair amount and people who have maybe never played at all in these type of situations,” said Faulkton coach Mallory Schlechter said. “Half of my starters are girls that maybe weren’t even on varsity last year. It’s definitely a new experience for some of them.”

As a result, the Trojans got off to a bit of a rough start where they suffered the majority of their losses this fall. There was a learning curve, but it allowed the members a chance to realize what needed to be fixed.

“It took us a little bit. We started off pretty strong, and then we kind of hit a rough patch in there as we saw some of the areas that we needed to focus in on a little more,” Schlechter said. “A lot of time playing together really is what has kind of done it for them.”

Isabel Aesoph leads the team in both hitting and serving. She has 54 aces on the season. Addison Melius has 47 and Shayna Heitmann 41.

Faulkton takes on Arlington in the opening round in a rematch of a regular-season match that Arlington won.

Schlechter said her team has grown quite a bit since then.

“That was kind of when we were still getting things figured out at the beginning of the season,” she said. “Now that we’re a lot more comfortable with each other, I think it will be a really good matchup between the two of us.”

Schlechter said net play will be a key factor, most notably getting a block up on the Cardinals hitters.

“We know that they have some really strong hitters that we’re going to have to stop and shutdown,” Schlechter said. “We want to get up and get lots of touches or really just kind of shut them down a little bit in their hitting aspect.”

The Trojans have obviously found their groove down the home stretch and will look to continue that surge during the state tournament.

Schlechter said her players’ mindset will likely play a major role in how they perform.

“I think we just need to come out strong and have a lot of energy, and be excited about where we’re at and not let the nerves get the best of us,” Schlechter said. “I have a lot of girls that haven’t played in this scenario, so just kind of that mental mindset will be a big thing.”

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