Connect with us


Northwestern rolls past Freeman

Northwestern volleyball team members celebrate winning a point during Friday’s consolation round Class B match against Freeman at the South Dakota State Volleyball Championship in the Denny Sanford Premiere Center in Sioux Falls. From the left are: Payton Grandpre, Ashley Haven, Ella Haven, Adriana Ratigan, Brooklinn Halvorson and Ella Boekelheide (behind Halvorson). Photo by John Davis taken 11/18/2022

SIOUX FALLS – Northwestern used a quick start to make quick work of Freeman Friday afternoon.

After dropping the opening sets in a five-set loss on Thursday, the Wildcats were determined to take care of business right from the start in a 25-17, 25-12, 25-15 consolation round victory during the Class B State Volleyball Tournament at the Premier Center.

“I thought the kids really regrouped well from our loss (Thursday),” said Northwestern coach Nora Groft. “They just totally handled that. They were fired up and ready to play today, and I thought it really showed. We really played well.”

The Wildcats came out on the attack and were never in serious trouble during the match.

Northwestern bolted out to a 10-5 lead in the first set. While the Flyers did battle back to tie the score, the Wildcats used a 9-1 run to break at 16-16 tie and close out the opening set.

Northwestern then pulled away from an 8-7 lead to start the second set and dominated the latter part of the set. Ella Haven was a force from all across the front row and finished the match with 25 kills, more than the entire Freeman squad.

“We were hitting some balls on the outside so they were shifting their block over,” Groft said “so we said fine, go to the middle and then they started plugging that, so we said fine, hit some slides on the back side. Just keeping her moving. She’s usually faster than any middle she faces.”

The Wildcats never trailed in the third set on the way to completing the sweep and easing some of the frustration from the opening round.

“Losing the first round isn’t always the best for the mindsets of the team, so we just really wanted to come out and win that second game to show everybody that we can win at state,” Grandpre said. “And I think today we showed that we really wanted it.”

Northwestern’s Payton Grandpre, right, hits the ball as Freeman’s Erin Uecker, left, defends the net during Friday’s consolation round Class B match at the South Dakota State Volleyball Championship in the Denny Sanford Premiere Center in Sioux Falls. In the background for the Wildcats is Tara Blachford. Photo by John Davis taken 11/18/2022

Northwestern had multiple match points against Wolsey-Wessington on Thursday, so the manner in which the Wildcats lost provided extra fuel for the fire.

“We were really motivated, because we were just so close,” said Northwestern freshman Ella Boekelheide.

The Wildcats were on their toes, prepared for the Freeman offense which sometimes plays ball out of system which can catch defenses off guard.

“You really always have to be ready,” Boekelheide said, “because anything can happen.”

Groft praised the play of Boekelheide, Grandpre and Tara Blachford. Boekelheide had 17 digs, Grandpre 13 and Blachford seven.

She said her team is accustomed to being ready for anything.

“Our kids are pretty good about playing up the junky stuff,” Groft said. “They’re athletic enough that they can get there.”

The Wildcats feature a unique blend led by seniors Ella Haven and Brooklinn Halvorson along with a group of underclassmen. The athletes get along well to make the mix work.

“We really are like a huge family, basically. We get along with everyone on the team. We’re all so close,” Grandpre said. “I think having a such big friendship with everyone really just helps the chemistry on the court.”

Groft said that Boekelheide and Grandpre are versatile athletes who contribute in multiple ways.

“Ella Boekeleheide and Payton Grandpre are fantastic Liberos, but we just decided we wanted more ball control out there,” Groft said. “So we just have two extra Liberos out on the floor. Ella’s always been a little thing, and she’s really grown. She’s getting a little taller and stretching out, and she jumps well.”

As a result, Boekelheide has become more of a factor at the net, where she had a pair of assisted blocks against Freeman.

“It’s definitely different,” Boekelheide said of her new role. “It takes a little time to get used to, but I enjoy being up at the net, too.”

Northwestern’s Ella Boekelheide (6) and Ella Haven (3) defend the net as Freeman’s Zenovia Butler (24) reaches to hit the ball during Friday’s consolation round Class B match at the South Dakota State Volleyball Championship in the Denny Sanford Premiere Center in Sioux Falls. Photo by John Davis taken 11/18/2022

Still, Boekelheide and Grandpre are probably best known for their ability to track down balls and keep them off the floor.

“We’re all young and don’t have a lot of experience,” Grandpre said, “so we kind of just fly all over the place hoping that we dig some balls up.”

Ashley Haven contributed 11 kills to the Northwestern total.

The Wildcats, 28-9, will finish their season by facing Castlewood in the fifth place match around 1:15 this afternoon.

“I think our long-term, long-shot goal was to get to the state tournament. I said all year I’d love to go and lose every match, because that meant we got to go,” Groft said. “So for us to get here and have a chance to win two matches at the state tournament, that would just be amazing, but what these kids have done this year has just blown me away.”

Serving: Freeman 3 aces (Ashlin Jacobsen 1, Erin Uecker 1, Cami Fransen 2); Northwestern 12 aces (Ella Haven 4, Brooklin Halvorson 4, Payton Grandpre 2, Ashley Haven 1, Ella Boekelheide 1).

Hitting: Freeman 23 kills (Kate Miller 9, Jacobsen 5, Zenovia Butler 5); Northwestern 45 (E. Haven 25, A. Haven 11).

Setting: Freeman 20 assists (Fransen 12, Vaida Ammann 6); Northwestern 43 (Halvorson 33, Boekelheide 6, Grandpre 4).

Digs: Freeman 59 (Jacobsen 27, Butler 11, Emily Mendel 8); Northwestern 63 (Boekelheide 17, Grandpre 13, E. Haven 12).

Blocks: Freeman 1 solo  2 assists (Uecker 1 solo); Northwestern 1 solo 6 assists (E. Haven 1 solo 3 assists, Boekelheide 2, Adriana Ratigan 1).

Records: Freeman 21-11; Northwestern 28-9.

Purchase a Photo

Browse By Category

Browse By Month

More in Volleyball

Dacotah Bank