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Cavaliers earn five-set victory over Miller

Aberdeen Roncalli’s McKenna O’Keefe, right, hits the ball past Miller’s Olivia Resel, left, during Tuesday night’s match at the Roncalli High School gym. Looking on for the Cavaliers are Ava Hanson, far left, Camryn Bain, back left and Jaidyn Feickert, back right. Photo by John Davis taken 8/29/2023

The Aberdeen Roncalli volleyball team built an early lead, then had to find a late surge in the final set on Tuesday.

The Cavaliers held off the Miller Rustlers for a 25-20, 25-18, 23-25, 19-25, 15-7 non-conference victory at Roncalli Gym, in a match of momentum swings from the very beginning.

Miller jumped out to an early 6-1 lead in the opening set before Roncalli coach Mandy Smid called a timeout to calm her team down.

“We put a lot of time and energy and effort into our serve receive and controlling what we can control on our side, and we really didn’t have that control,” Smid said. “We talk a lot about how we can’t just go out and swing full-on if we’re having a rough time getting through.”

Roncalli settled into the match after the timeout, taking full control of set one, as well as set two.

Miller coach Linda DeBoer said her team had to play together, despite facing adversity.

“We had a player go down – one of our starting outside hitters went down in the JV game – and so we had to do some rearranging of some players and I think that showed a little bit,” DeBoer said. “I just told them they have to play with heart and that they need to play for each other, not just with each other.”

Down by two sets, the Rustlers answered back, winning sets three and four, and putting the Cavaliers back on their heels.

Roncalli outside hitter McKenna O’Keefe said the Cavaliers had to learn how to fight through their own adversity.

“We started off really good as a team and then, as things started going downhill, we just had to start trusting our teammates more and just know that we can do hard things,” O’Keefe said.

With the Rustlers taking the momentum in the third and fourth sets, it set the stage for the fifth and final set. However, it was Roncalli that seized control early in the set, building a 9-3 lead, and eventually finishing what it had started.

“That lead right away in set five I think is huge when you start talking about set five being the end, and it’s the pressure that goes with it,” Smid said. “So happy that we were able to have such a strong set five and to feel that pressure, but also react to that pressure and come out with the win.”

DeBoer said fatigue started to set in for her team in the fifth set.

“I think we got a little tired,” DeBoer said. “We just didn’t serve receive like we needed to.”

Aberdeen Roncalli’s Faith Danielson (14) tries to tip the ball over the net as Miller’s Kate Lichty, left and Shaylee Anderberg, right, defend the net during Tuesday night’s match at the Roncalli High School gym. Photo by John Davis taken 8/29/2023

Ava Hanson led Roncalli with 12 kills, 3 aces, and 2 solo blocks, while Camryn Bain had 22 digs and 3 aces. O’Keefe, who had 18 digs and seven kills, came up with the final kill to cement the win.

“That last kill, I just wanted it all,” O’Keefe said. “I just really wanted to get that win for the team just to celebrate.”

Miller, which travels to Sully Buttes on Thursday, was led by Aleah Schlechter with 14 kills, while Journey Palmer had 11 kills and 15 digs.

DeBoer said the Rustlers will need to make adjustments to their lineup as the season progresses.

“If Paige (Werdel) is out, we’re going to have to find a new outside hitter, although I think our senior Journey Palmer went in and did a really fine job tonight,” DeBoer said. “So, we’re still working on some things. It’s early, we have a young crew, so don’t count us out.”

The Cavaliers, 2-1 on the season, play at Tiospa Zina on Thursday.

While she knows there are still improvements to be made, Smid was glad to see her players learn and grow throughout Tuesday’s victory.

“To curve it a little bit, I think that we learned more by going five sets than we did if we would’ve won in three,” Smid said. “I think it showed a lot of heart from them to come back and finish it and show that they really wanted it.”

Serving: Miller 71-81 11 aces (Heather Resel 19-19 4 aces, Joanlei Baker 14-14 3 aces, Shaylee Anderberg 16-19 2 aces); Aberdeen Roncalli 98-107 9 aces (Ava Hanson 23-24 3 aces, Camryn Bain 24-25 3 aces).

Hitting: Miller 139-177 33 kills (Aleah Schlechter 36-45 14 kills, Journey Palmer 41-46 11 kills, Kate Lichty 12-16 3 kills); Aberdeen Roncalli 118-138 34 kills (Hanson 33-39 12 kills, McKenna O’Keefe 23-26 7 kills).

Setting: Miller 188-193 37 assists (H. Resel 111-112 30 assists, Olivia Resel 38-41 2 assists); Aberdeen Roncalli 132-133 33 assists (Faith Danielson 54-55 17 assists, Maddie Huber 78-78 14 assists).

Digs: Miller 83 (Jolie Palmer 20, Anderberg 16, Journey Palmer 15); Aberdeen Roncalli 78 (Bain 22, O’Keefe 18).

Blocks: Miller 2 solo 16 assists (Lichty 6 assist, Schlechter 1 solo, 4 assist, Gracen Werdel 1 solo, 2 assist); Aberdeen Roncalli 3 solo, 4 assists (Hanson 2 solo, 2 assists, Morgan Helms 1 solo).

Records: Miller 2-1; Aberdeen Roncalli 2-1.

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