Connect with us
Subscribe Today!


Slow start dooms Castlewood in setback to Chester Area

Castlewood’s Presley Knecht, left, reaches to hit the ball as Chester’s Lily VanHal, right and Emilie Bleeker, far 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. Photo by John Davis taken 11/16/2023

RAPID CITY – A slow start proved to be costly for Castlewood.

Chester Area swept the Warriors 25-13, 25-20, 25-21 in the semifinal round of the Class B State Volleyball Tournament Friday night at The Monument.

Chester Area scored the first 11 points of set one, putting Castlewood in a hole it could not climb out of. The Flyers held control through the rest of the set despite the Warriors’ attempts to come back.

Castlewood coach Breanna DeKam felt her team was ready for the match.

“I’m kind of surprised that we started off like that after our game (Thursday) night,” DeKam said. We just let the nerves get after us. I thought we were definitely going step up there and we didn’t. That slow start really put us behind the whole match.”

DeKam also gave credit to Chester Area’s serving ability that gave Castlewood problems.

“They’re good servers, that’s for sure,” DeKam said. “Our serve-receive definitely crumbled at the beginning, but I think it was all of our mental things.”

Chester Area coach Jean O’Hara said it was unusual for the Flyers to start a match like Friday’s semifinal.

“That was just fortunate for us; maybe we caught them not quite ready to go and (we) really served well on those first 10 or 11 points. That’s unusual,” O’Hara said.

Set two was closer as both squads traded leads. The Warriors held several leads but failed to pull away from the Flyers. Chester Area eventually grabbed enough momentum late in the set to take a two-set lead. DeKam said the goal was to make Chester Area work for every point.

“We knew that we had to continue hitting,” she said. “If we could hit and give them something that they had to work for, then they couldn’t throw their fakes.”

The Flyers’ fakes caused problems for the Warriors, something DeKam said was a concern entering the contest.

“Their fakes are what really threw our defense off,” DeKam said. “We knew that going into it; if we could throw them off, then we have a better chance at our defense getting the ball.”

Castlewood senior Gracie Haug said once the Warriors got into the game mentally, they were able to compete with the Flyers.

Castlewood’s Gracie Haug reaches to serve the ball during Thursday’s Class B match against Colman-Egan at the South Dakota State Volleyball Tournament at the Summit Arena in Rapid City. Photo by John Davis taken 11/16/2023

“We had to get out of our heads. That’s been our thing all year is if we can keep our heads in the game, we’re in the game,” Haug said. “We’re a great team when our heads are in the game. I would say our heads lost us that game, not our ability.”

O’Hara said execution was the key for the Flyers in the second set.

“We just needed to execute,” O’Hara said. “I thought we made some mistakes early on, put some balls out of bounds, some unforced hitting errors, missed some serves, and in big time matches against really good teams, you can’t afford to give away those points.”

Despite the Flyers carrying the momentum into the third set, the Warriors kept fighting.

Castlewood led several times, including holding a 15-12 lead, when Chester Area called timeout to regroup.

“We did talk about our unforced errors. I said ‘Girls, we cannot afford to give away any free points,’” O’Hara said. “We have to just make sure we’re taking care of the ball (and) do the things we know how to do.”

From there, Chester Area took control of the set, and ultimately, the match. Despite attempts by Castlewood to finish set three on top, DeKam said her team began to play passively down the stretch.

“I think we started playing scared,” DeKam said. “We started tipping the ball over and pushing the ball over. We knew that we needed to continue hitting, so if our pass isn’t there, we can’t do that; so, it all kind of starts from that.”

Castlewood’s Kailyn Larson bumps the ball during Friday’s Class B semifinal match against Chester at the South Dakota State Volleyball Tournament at the Summit Arena in Rapid City. Photo by John Davis taken 11/16/2023

Despite falling short in Friday’s match, Haug, who led Castlewood with 20 assists and eight digs, was grateful for the opportunity to be playing in the state tournament.

“It’s a great feeling to be in the state tournament. We’re incredibly blessed,” Haug said. “It’s my senior year, so it means a lot to be here, and getting to be in the semifinal game was a great experience.”

Haug said it means a lot to represent the community of Castlewood at the state tournament.

“Representing Castlewood is so awesome, because we’ve been known as a basketball school our entire life, but last year we made it to the state tournament, this year we made it to the state tournament,” Haug said. “So, it’s awesome that we can inspire all the younger girls in the stands and all of our fans that we’re becoming a volleyball school. I’m so proud that we’re able to do that for all of our fans.”

Chester Area advances to the Class B state championship match, where it will take on a familiar foe in Warner at 6:45 p.m. The Flyers and Monarchs are no strangers to each other in state championship matches, having met four previous times, including in last year’s state title match.

O’Hara said her team will have to work hard to prepare for the title tilt.

“I’ll tell you what, they’re good. They’re very good,” O’Hara said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us, but that’s where we wanted to get back to. I think the girls have had it as a goal in their minds all season since we were in Sioux Falls on November 19th last year. We’re going to enjoy this for just a moment and then we’re going to get back to work and see if we can’t find a couple of things on Warner that hopefully we can work to our advantage. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Castlewood will play Burke in the third-place match at 5 tonight. The Warriors and Cougars also have matched up in state tournaments before, playing in last year’s opening round, with Burke winning a five-set thriller.

DeKam said the team needs to look past the semifinal loss and look towards the match with Burke.

“We have to get over this and then think on to Burke,” DeKam said, “what’s our plan for that, because we’re happy to be here, so on to the next one.”

Serving: Castlewood 3 aces (Emerson Carter 1, Kylie Wittnebel 1, Gracie Haug 1); Chester Area 8 aces (Lily VanHal 6).

Hitting: Castlewood 27 kills (Presley Knecht 12, Carter 10); Chester Area 49 kills (Jacy Wolf 12, VanHal 11, Addison Bates 11, Emmerson Eppard 10).

Setting: Castlewood 25 assists (Haug 20); Chester Area 46 assists (VanHal 31).

Digs: Castlewood 41 digs (Haug 8, Wittnebel 7, Karli Akin 6, Carter 6); Chester Area 47 digs (Emery Larson 17, Wolf 9, Katelynn Huntimer).

Blocks: Castlewood 2 solo 6 assists (Carter 2 solo 1 assist, Knecht 3 assists); Chester Area 1 solo 4 assists (Bates 1 solo 2 assists).

Records: Castlewood 22-9; Chester Area 32-2.

Purchase a Photo

Browse By Category

Browse By Month

More in Volleyball