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Mobridge-Pollock races out to 10-0 volleyball start

Mobridge-Pollock’s Emma Keller, right, reaches to set the ball as Hamlin’s Abby Abraham, left and Kami Wadsworth, center, look on from behind the net during last year's So-Dak 16 match at the Groton High School gym. Keller is a key member of the undefeated Mobridge-Pollock team this season. Photo by John Davis taken 11/9/2021

MOBRIDGE – When the Mobridge-Pollock Tigers came up one match short of reaching the state tournament a year ago, it triggered a determined effort to work hard in the off season and come back with a renewed energy in hopes of getting over the hump this season.

Those off-season results have shown up so far this season as the squad is off to a 10-0 start and has dropped just three sets so far this season.

“Every year most teams have the goal to go to state and our girls obviously had that goal as well. I think that loss made some of the returning players realize that they might just have to work just a little bit more in the off season, so they really hit it hard this past year,” said Mobridge-Pollock coach Rose Henderson.

As a result, the players were part of the Junior Olympic program in Aberdeen, attended camps on their own, and got in the weight room.

“They worked really hard getting stronger,” Henderson said, “so we’re a little more physical team this year.”

The Tigers have an experienced squad led by seniors Emma Keller, Mariah Goehring, Emily Hatzenbuehler, Gretchen Olson and Madison Ross.” Keller and Goehring have been varsity members since the eighth grade.

“That leadership with Emma, Gretchen and Mariah out on the floor has helped some of those younger ones really blossom, as well as helping the younger ones to become leaders as well knowing that they can all do it, and they work so well together,” Henderson said.

While Mobridge-Pollock was not that far away from obtaining that coveted state tourney berth a year ago, the Tigers did not rest on their laurels. Henderson has modified a few things offensively this fall to keep opponents off balance.

“Serving aggressively has really been helping us put teams on their heels so they can’t get their offense going, and then we’ve really been working on serve receive where we can work and run a faster offense with our middles and our outsides a little bit,” Henderson said. “We’re trying to implement some crossing patterns into our offense where the middle might run backwards over to the backside of the net, while the right side might come to the front into the middle, trying to keep the opponent guessing on where we’re going to attack. That’s really been working well.”

Of course, it takes personnel to able to do that and Henderson credits Olson, Reagan Weisbeck, and Raelyn Aberle for their ability to pass the ball to help fuel the up-tempo attack.

“They’re pretty good at keeping it where we need it to be to run that faster offense,” Henderson said.

So far the new-look philosophy has proven to be effective as Mobridge-Pollock has racked up 10 victories already this season, tied for the most in Class A.

Yet, the Tigers’ success has gone relatively unnoticed statewide. Mobridge-Pollock did not receive a mention in the polls until this past week when it picked up one single vote.

That lack of recognition is not a concern for Henderson.

“The polls say some stuff, but I say we just have to go out and do our job,” she said. “That’s really what we’re focusing on, and controlling what we can control on our side of the net and what we can do in the standings.”

Mobridge-Pollock’s Mariah Goehring, left, tries to tip the ball past Hamlin’s Kami Wadsworth, right during last year’s So-Dak 16 match at the Groton High School gym. Photo by John Davis taken 11/9/2021

Henderson will be the first to admit that her team’s schedule hasn’t been the most demanding to date. However, things are about to change as the Tigers could face the likes of Miller and Wolsey-Wessington on upcoming back-to-back weekends in a pair of touraments.

“We’re coming to the season area where we’re going to see some bigger competition,” Henderson said.

While the Tigers have a mission of getting to the state tournament (they haven’t been there since 2016), they also have short-term goals they are focusing on.

“One of the goals this team has is to be resilient and consistent,,” Henderson said, “where in previous years we haven’t been quite as resilient with when we make mistakes letting them go, which is showing a maturity for this team.”

And with a nucleus that has been through a few battles together, it only stands to reason that maturity and teamwork are strengths for the Tigers.

“The girls really are hungry this year. Not that they weren’t hungry last year, but we’ve had a bunch of them that have been on this team for a while,” Henderson said. “They really work well together. They’ve got good chemistry on the floor.”

Time will tell just how much this team will be able to accomplish this season, but the Tigers couldn’t have asked for a better start to their campaign.

“We’re excited to see where we get to,” Henderson said. “These girls have just been working hard and they’re having a lot of fun, and I’m having a lot of fun coaching them, so we’re going to hopefully keep rolling.”

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