Timber Lake makes first trip to state volleyball tourney
By Jay Davis
The Timber Lake Lady Panthers face a high mountain on Thursday when they lace up their shoes for their first-ever appearance in the State B Volleyball Tournament.
The seventh seed Lady Panthers will play two seed Warner at 7:45 p.m. in the Corn Palace on Thursday. Warner is 31-0 and ranked first in state. The Monarchs are a perfect 81-0 in sets played this season.
But that is the next hurdle for the Timber Lake girls. The last hurdle, beating Harding County and winning the Region 8B championship, was a giant step for the program. It was a hurdle no Lady Panther team had ever cleared before.
“We are still all in a little shock,” said coach Sarah Schweitzer, “but we have had several great days of practice already.”
The mood in the gym has changed from what happened in past and to the next intended goal.
“We don’t want to just go and be there,” said Schweitzer. “Our plan is to show everyone what Panther volleyball is all about.”
Showing their skills may be tough for the Lady Panthers in the opening round. Warner presents all sorts of problems. The height differential will make it like hills taking on mountains. While the Lady Panthers’ leading hitters are 5’6”, 5’5” and 5’1”, the Monarchs will come at them with a pair hitters who are 6’2” and another who is 6’1.”
“Facing a tall team like Warner is really no different than what we face all year long,” said Schweitzer. “They have a few more taller girls than other teams, but facing teams taller than us is really what we have been doing all year long.
The Lady Panthers will counter Warner’s height with athletic ability and hard-nosed defense.
“We are scrappy and we don’t like to let the ball hit the floor on our side,” said Schweitzer. “We are not tall, but we can jump. We may not always get a complete block, but we work on getting touches on the ball to help our back row out. We are going to want to take advantage of our serving ability and try to use that to help us out.”
Timber Lake uses a two-setter system that spreads the ball around, as evidenced by six players with more than 40 kills.
Senior Kristie Mettler is the top offensive player. Mettler makes up for her 5’1” frame with excellent leaping ability. She leads the team with 195 kills and is the only player on the team with double-digit blocks, having 15.5 on the season.
Courtney Dahlgren, 5’5” junior, is second with 138 kills, including a team-leading nine kills in the region championship win over Harding County.
Juniors Skya Ducheneaux and Kailee Webb are the dual threat at setter. Ducheneaux leads the team with 255 assists. Webb has 166 assists and also moves to the net where she is third on the team with 83 kills. Both girls set at a 96-percent rate.
When serving, all four players have more than 60 aces. Ducheneaux leads the way with 87 aces. Dahlgren has 74, Webb 73 and Mettler 61. Senior Kathryn Biegler is fourth with 67 aces and leads the defense with 56 digs.
Warner counters with a front line that has put down 1,043 kills this season. Senior Rachel Rogers is 6’2” and has 299 kills. Junior Maranda Ristau, also 6’2”, has 275 kills. Junior Carly Rozell, 6’1”, has 181 kills and Jaici Schlosser, 5’8” sophomore, has 147 kills.
Sophomore Ashley Rozell handles nearly all the setting and has 820 assists on 99 percent setting.
The Monarchs have 346 aces on the season. Carly Rozell leads with 95.
Alyssa Jung and Kaitlyn Armstrong lead the back row defense with 267 and 159 digs, respectively. Ristau leads the net defense with 39 blocks.