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Monarchs start quick, finish strong in win over Burke

Warner’s Kyra Marcuson, center, reaches to hit the ball as Burke’s Paige Bull, left and Addi Hood, right, defend the net during Friday’s Class B semifinal match at the South Dakota State Volleyball Tournament at the Summit Arena in Rapid City. Looking on for the Monarchs are Lauren Marcuson, far left, and head coach Kari Jung, back right. Photo by John Davis taken 11/16/2023

RAPID CITY – There was no wakeup call needed Friday night.

After getting off to a sluggish start in its opening round match, Warner was sharp from the opening serve on the way to a 25-16, 25-22, 25-11 semifinal win over Burke during the Class B State Volleyball Tournament at The Monument.

“We played so much better from the start to the finish than we did (Thursday) night,” said Warner coach Kari Jung. “I think the kids were just knowing a little bit more what it feels like again to be on that court. Our offense was really on fire tonight, so that helped us.”

One player in particular was on fire, hitter Kyra Marcuson.

The senior went down the line and up the middle on the way to a match-leading 14 kills.

Marcuson did the bulk of her damage by ripping shots down the line.

“People usually leave a little gap in the line, so when you hit line, it’s easier to hit around the block than if you hit cross,” Marcuson said.

She also did some damage in the middle of the Burke defense.

“I told her this morning when we were at practice, I said you know you have that roll shot that’s in the middle. You’re going to score there and I think she had four of them,” Jung said. “So she swung hard, but then was able to put them in the middle and she was just hitting the holes.”

Marcuson took the advice to heart and it paid dividends.

“The roll shot, they said it was open,” Marcuson said. “It’s very hard, if you get in the right spot in the middle, to pick it up because it’s a very open spot there.”

The Monarchs were in complete control of the opening set before encountering a little adversity in the second set.

The Cougars bolted out to a 5-1 advantage and while Warner quickly got back into the set, Burke still possessed a 14-11 lead. The Monarchs have dropped just three sets all season, and Jung said it was good for her team to be in a tight battle.

“We had to fight from behind. It was probably really good experience for them to be in, so they knew they could do it,” Jung said. “They stayed calm and they stayed aggressive, and that was important for us to finish.”

Warner’s Ava Nilsson (4) celebrates a point with teammate Kyra Marcuson, left, as Sophia Hoeft (8), Lauren Marcuson and Courtney Bjorgaard, far right, during Friday’s Class B semifinal match against Burke at the South Dakota State Volleyball Tournament at the Summit Arena in Rapid City. Photo by John Davis taken 11/16/2023

Marcuson said the goal was to stay in contact with the Cougars.

“What goes through my mind mainly is to even up with them, tie them,” she said, “and then we can go from there, one point at a time.”

That’s exactly what happened as the score was tied at 18, 20 and 21 before the Monarchs finished off the set on back-to-back kills from Marcuson.

Warner went back to dominating the action in the final set and again Marcuson played a key role. She served nine straight points to turn a 5-2 edge into a commanding 14-2 advantage.

“When I’m in there serving, I just want to get it over and in, just make it playable, and then trust our defense from there, because we work hard on defense,” Marcuson said.

The Monarchs had just three aces, but got Burke out of system with aggressive serves throughout the match.

“That was part of our plan,” Jung said. “We knew we had to serve aggressive and hit aggressive.”

While the Monarchs made a few more errors because of that aggressive serving, that tradeoff was fine with Jung because it created the tone for the match.

“That’s exactly what Coach Jung wanted,” said Warner’s MaKenna Leidholt. “She said to make those serves way more aggressive and we’ll do great.”

Warner’s MaKenna Leidholt, center, hits the ball past Burke’s Emmie Hausmann, left and Piper Hanson, right, during Friday’s Class B semifinal match at the South Dakota State Volleyball Tournament at the Summit Arena in Rapid City. Photo by John Davis taken 11/16/2023

Another part of the Warner game plan was getting up solid blocks against Burke’s multiple hitters.

The Monarchs finished with three solo blocks and 10 assisted blocks.

“It’s mostly just trying to find where they’re setting the ball and getting there,” Leidholt said, “trying to close that block and not having it open and letting them get that kill.”

Warner has now won 39 matches without a loss this season and will attempt to win its third straight state championship when it plays Chester Area in a rematch of last season’s state title contest at 6:45 tonight.

“We have a lot of seniors on our team so we really want it,” Marcuson said. “We’re just going to go out there, play our hardest and just give it our all.”

Serving: Burke 3 aces (Elle Johnson 1, Johanna Vaughn 1, Kailee Frank 1); Warner 3 aces (Ava Nilsson 1, Kyra Marcuson 1, Lauren Marcuson 1).

Hitting: Burke 21 kills (Emmie Hausmann 6, Frank 5, Piper Hanson 4, Paige Bull 4); Warner 41 kills (K. Marcuson 14, L. Marcuson 9, Kyleigh Schopp 6, Nilsson 5, MaKenna Leidholt 5).

Setting: Burke 17 assists (Ava Sargent 10, Bridget Eliason 6); Warner 41 assists (Nilsson 33).

Digs: Burke 36 (Kyrie Matucha 9, Johnson 7, Frank 6, Hausmann 6); Warner 49 (Courtney Bjorgaard 13, L. Marcuson 11, Haleigh Holt 7, Nilsson 5, Jordyn Jensen 5).

Blocks: Burke 1 solo 5 assists (Bull 1 solo 3 assists); Warner 3 solo 10 assists (Nilsson 2 solo 2 assists, Schopp 1 solo 4 assists, L. Marcuson 2 assists).

Records: Burke 32-5; Warner 39-0.

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