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Miller facing familiar foe in opening round of State A tourney

The Miller Rustlers huddle around coach Linda DeBoer during a match earlier this season. The Rustlers will play Platte-Geddes at 5 p.m. Thursday in the opening round of the Class A State Volleyball Tournament in Sioux Falls. Photo by Jaimi Lammers

MILLER – The setting may be foreign for most of the members of the Miller Rustlers, but the opening round opponent will not be.

Miller takes on Platte-Geddes at 5 p.m. Thursday in the Class A State Volleyball Tournament at the Premier Center in Sioux Falls. It is the only squad among the eight-team field that the Rustlers have faced this season.

“To have Platte and a familiar opponent the first round is really good for our kids,” said Miller coach Linda DeBoer, “because none of these kids have been to the state tournament before.”

The last time the team was in the state tourney (2018), this year’s seniors were freshmen.

The Rustlers swept Platte-Geddes during the regular season. While DeBoer said both teams have made changes since that match, she does have an idea of what to expect from the Black Panthers.

“They’re a very good well-rounded team,” DeBoer said. “They have two very, very good hitters that we’re going to have to try to stop at the net, so we’ve been working on a few things to try to dominate at the net and get the ball up in the back row.”

The Rustlers feature a balanced attack with five hitters (Ally Mullaney, Abbi Blake, Tricia Lammers, Aleah Schlechter and Jaden Werdel) who have recorded anywhere from 137 to 306 kills. That helps to prevent defenses from keying on one particular player.

“They’ve all embraced their roles,” DeBoer. “I like that we have more than one go-to hitter. We’re pretty even.”

Four players (Jolie Palmer, Tyra Gates, Journey Palmer and Werdel) have nearly 200 digs or more on the season.

Miller’s Jolie Palmer passes the ball during a match earlier this season. Looking on are Ruby Carder (11) and Ally Mullaney (10). Photo by Jaimi Lammers

Because none of the current Rustlers have ever played in a state tournament game, DeBoer is hoping that the team can just relax and just play like it has all season.

“I think we’re going to have to get a handle on our nerves and just settle in and play our kind of ball,” DeBoer said, “which is aggressive serving, trying to play great defense to get the ball up, utilizing all of our hitters in that dynamic offense, and of course minimizing unforced errors and hopefully scoring more points than they do.”

Miller enters the tourney with a record a 32-2 with its only two losses coming to defending State B champion Warner.

DeBoer said the players have stayed focused on the task at hand throughout the season and now get to reap the benefit of that.

“It’s going to be exciting,” she said. “They’ve done a really good job all year long, just taking it one match at a time, and coming into the gym every day and just trying to get better to get us to the point where we are now.”

The Rustlers are the second-seed in Class A and DeBoer is excited about her current players having the chance to compete on the biggest stage in South Dakota volleyball.

“It’s a great opportunity for them to go and be on that center court and get all the attention on them, which is great, because sometimes in the middle of the state we get lost here,” DeBoer said. “But I’m really happy with the way the middle of the state is being represented with Pierre and Huron, and Wolsey is just 20 miles down the road. So there’s a lot of excitement in this part of the state when it comes to the sport of volleyball and we’re just happy to be part of it.”

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