Lady Tigers host Chamberlain Saturday
By Jay Davis
Playing in three straight state tournaments makes for a strong program. But it also creates holes when all-state and all-conference level players graduate and move on from high school.
Last year’s team that finished third in state graduated four starters among six seniors. With only three players who had extended court time last year and just three seniors on this year’s squad, one would think this would be a rebuilding year for the Lady Tigers.
On one hand, yes there is an influx of youth and there are many holes to fill, but on the other hand, coaches Keri and Rick Bolduan have not lowered their expectations or their goals for where the Lady Tigers want to finish the season this year.
While there will be more stumbling blocks along they way than the team has had to suffer the past few seasons, the hopes of playing their last game of season is still at the State A Volleyball Tournament.
“It has been different working with so much youth,” said Keri Bolduan. “But we’ve been real scrappy and are looking pretty good.”
Three seniors will lead the Lady Tigers on their quest for a fourth straight state tournament, including all-state honorable mention Callie Slater, along with Kady Pinney and Ariel Bieber.
There is a slew of underclassmen on the squad, 28 to be exact, but only four who were varsity players last year. Sophomore Maranda Wagner was the only one of those four who received extensive playing time last fall. Juniors Ellie Rabenberg and Kayleigh Henderson and sophomore Becca Martin are the other three with varsity experience.
The in-practice competition has been a hotly contested fight so the coaches are expecting to see a few roster changes before the final varsity is set.
The season opens with two straight home games, giving the Lady Tigers a good chance at a confidence-boosting start. The Chamberlain Cubs come to Mobridge-Pollock High School Gymnasium on Saturday in the season opener for both squads. Tip-off for the first match is set for 3 p.m.
The Lady Tigers have won five straight contests against the Cubs. Mobridge-Pollock beat Chamberlain 3-0 in the regular season and 2-0 at the Big Dakota Conference Tournament last year and won the same two matches in 2010. The last time Chamberlain beat the Lady Tigers was during the regular season in 2009, but Mobridge-Pollock avenged that loss with a 3-1 win in the Region 6A championship game.
Standing Rock comes to the Bridge City on Tuesday with game one starting at 5:30 p.m.
Building a program that can compete with the Lady Tigers has been a struggle for Standing Rock. The teams have been squaring off since 2005. The Lady Tigers have won all seven matches with the Warriors never having won more than one set.
“The girls are getting there,” said Bolduan. “We’re ready for Saturday.”