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Miller falls prey to Rapid City Christian pace

Miller’s Aleah Schlechter, center, tries to hit the ball past Rapid City Christian’s Ana Egge, left and Kendall Glassbrenner, right, defend the net during Friday’s Class A semifinal match at the South Dakota State Volleyball Tournament at the Summit Arena in Rapid City. Photo by John Davis taken 11/16/2023

RAPID CITY – It all happened pretty quickly at The Monument Friday night.

Rapid City Christian’s fast-paced offense was stuck in full throttle on the way to a 25-18, 25-17, 25-14 semifinal win over Miller during the Class A State Volleyball Tournament.

The Comets set the tone with their rapid fire sets and spikes, and then played stellar defense to go along with it en route to the victory.

“Our rhythm was way off. They run a very fast-tempo offense and they move that ball around a lot, and we knew that watching them. We just couldn’t find the pace and get our block up,” said Miller coach Linda DeBoer. “We did a little bit better in that third set. We got some good touches and slowed the ball down a little bit, but I’m proud of our kids. There’s a lot of kids that would love to be here on semifinal night.”

It became evident early on that the Rustlers would have their hands full in multiple ways.

For starters, Miller had to contend with an offense that sent balls over much more quickly than did most of its previous foes.

“I think that they just run a lot of stuff quicker than what we’re used to along the net,” said Miller senior Journey Palmer. “We had a hard time picking it up and sometimes we did, and we caught them off guard by it.”

Miller’s Journey Palmer, center, digs out a ball during Friday’s Class A semifinal match against Rapid City Christian at the South Dakota State Volleyball Tournament at the Summit Arena in Rapid City. Photo by John Davis taken 11/16/2023

Then the Rustlers had to deal with a stonewall at the net as Rapid City Christian produced three solo blocks and 10 assisted blocks.

“Tonight has definitely been our best blocking match of the entire season. We’ve known all along that we can block like that,” said Christian coach Krystal Weber. “We were very frustrated (Thursday) night with our blocking, because we just could not put our hands on any of the hits from Dakota Valley.”

That was not the case against the Rustlers. Weber said that the team’s defense complimented a solid night on offense.

“We came out tonight and our blockers did their job to help out our defense, and then our hitters just went after it and found a way to put the ball on the court,” Weber said. “It was an absolute team effort tonight.”

The Comets not only created issues at the net with their blocks, their backrow prevented any other openings meaning that offense was hard to come by for the Rustlers.

“They got some great plays with their defense,” DeBoer said. “When we did start swinging and we figured we’d run a little bit more out of the middle and use our kids, we started scoring a little bit more, but then they just play such tough defense, so it was hard to get the ball down against them.”

Miller ended up attempting to play off of those blocks to try to generate some offense that way.

“I think what worked for us is tooling it off that block,” Palmer said, “because they’re really tall, and then finding that short donut and stuff like that.”

In the end, the Rustlers did not have enough offense to keep up with the fast-paced play of Rapid City Christian.

“They are a very talented ballclub. We just kept trying to give them what we could,” DeBoer said. “I thought we serve-received really well tonight. I was very impressed and then we just ran into a wall up there at the net with their block.”

Miller’s Shaylee Anderberg (9), Heather Resel (13), Journey Palmer, center and Jolie Palmer, right, celebrate a point during Friday’s Class A semifinal match against Rapid City Christian at the South Dakota State Volleyball Tournament at the Summit Arena in Rapid City. Photo by John Davis taken 11/16/2023

While the blocking proved pivotal, it could all be traced back to the style of play of the Comets’ offense.

“When we are aggressive on offense and get teams out of system,” Weber said, “then it makes it much easier for us to know where the ball is going at so that we can get that block there.”

Ana Egge had 18 kills to lead Rapid City Christian. The Comets (35-5) will face defending state champion Sioux Falls Christian in the title match at 6:45 tonight.

“It’s just going to be a match where whoever wants it more is going to come out on top,” Weber said. “They have the upper hand where they’ve been here before. This is our first time.”

Aleah Schlechter topped Miller with 10 kills and Paige Werdel added six.

The Rustlers, 29-7, will face Dell Rapids for third place at 5 this evening.

“We have to play loose, and have some fun,” DeBoer said, “and send our seniors off with a good one.”

Palmer and her teammates will be ready for their final match of the year.

“I think our team is really good about being a family and giving their all,” Palmer said, “because we have seven seniors and we’re going to go all out.”

Serving: Miller 3 aces (Aleah Schlechter 1, Heather Resel 1, Jolie Palmer 1); Rapid City Christian 6 (Ana Egge 3, Sophie DeWitt 1, Paisley Griffith 1, Kendall Glassbrenner 1).

Hitting: Miller 30 kills (Schlechter 10, Paige Werdel 6, Shaylee Anderberg 5, Gracen Werdel 4, Kate Lichty 3); Rapid City Christian 36 kills (Egge 18, Maddie Altstiel 5, Chloe Weber 5, Glassbrenner 4).

Setting: Miller 27 assists (Heather Resel 24); Rapid City Christian 35 assists (Faith King 31).

Digs: Miller 44 (Jolie Palmer 13, Journey Palmer 9, Anderberg 7, Resel 6, Schlechter 5); Rapid City Christian 50 (DeWitt 15, King 11, Weber 8, Egge 7).

Blocks: Miller 1 solo 2 assists (P. Werdel 1 solo, Schlechter 1 assist, Kate Lichty 1 assist); Rapid City Christian 3 solo 10 assists (Altstiel 1 solo 2 assists, Lydia Williams 3 assists, King 3 assists).

Records: Miller 29-7; Rapid City Christian 35-5.

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