Lady Tigers face Belle Fourche in State A opener
By Jay Davis
The Lady Tigers began the season with an unknown quality. The 2011 team that took third in state graduated six seniors, including four starters. That left the 2012 squad with plenty of holes to fill.
The new starters stepping in filled those holes quite nicely and the Lady Tigers did just like they had done the three previous years; win the district and region titles and secure their spot in the State A Volleyball Tournament, Thursday through Saturday at he Civic Arena in Watertown.
“It was unexpected that they would click so well after losing four starters from last year,” said coach Keri Bolduan. “It has been amazing to see how well they’ve played for being so young.”
The Lady Tigers started the season like a house on fire, winning their first seven and 10 of their 11 first matches. They hit a rough spot when the three seniors, Callie Slater, Ariel Bieber and Kady Pinney all suffered injuries. Although none of the injuries were the kind that would put a player on the disabled list, they were the kind of injuries that dogged each player and made it difficult for the Lady Tigers to be at the top of their game each night out.
“We were in a major slump,” said Bolduan. “But it came at the right time of the season. It gave us time to get healthy, to come out and turn it around.”
The girls cranked it up in the postseason. They vanquished Stanley County and Cheyenne-Eagle Butte with a pair of sweeps to win the District 11A title and then beat Miller 3-1 in the Region 6A championship game to secure their berth in this weekend’s state tournament.
Bolduan said a lot of the credit goes to this team’s ability to keep its cool under pressure.
“This is a group of girls who have been able to check their nerves and not let that affect their play,” said Bolduan.
With 23 wins and six losses, the Lady Tigers enter state as the eighth seed. They play number one seed Belle Fourche (31-1) in the opening game of the tournament. The two teams open the tournament at noon on Thursday.
Bolduan said the coaches don’t know a lot about Belle Fourche, mostly that they have a lot of tall girls (three at 5’10”, one at 5’11”) and that they like to attack quickly from the middle.
“We’re practicing that and working on some other things to get us more aggressive at the net,” said Bolduan. “We have some takes on what they want to do.”
Belle Fourche did not send season stats, so little can be told about the Broncs. They are young like the Lady Tigers with just two seniors. The Broncs are making just their third trip to state, their first since winning the state title back in 1995.
The Lady Tigers are playing in their fourth straight and seventh state tournament, overall. Mobridge-Pollock took third in state last year after taking seventh in 2010 and fourth in 2009.
They are led by senior and returning All-State honorable mention setter Callie Slater. Slater has 527 of the team’s 571 assists on the year. She is 1757 of 1770 setting for a 99-percent clip. Slater adds 56 service aces, 120 digs and 33 kills.
Senior Kady Pinney leads the Lady Tiger offense with 240 kills while attacking at an 82 percent success rate. She is also second on the team with 193 digs and served 41 aces.
The Lady Tigers also turn to offense with senor Ariel Bieber and juniors Kayleigh Henderson and Ellie Rabenberg.
Rabenberg is second on the team with 168 kills. Henderson is third with 159 kills. Bieber will hit triple digits this weekend with 99 kills on the season.
Bieber, Henderson and junior Aundrea Kramer lead the defense at the net. Henderson has 82 blocks, Bieber 38 and Kramer 47.
Sophomore libero Maranda Wagner runs the defensive show in the back row. She is far and away the leading defender with 354 digs.
Kramer leads the serving percentagewise while Rabenberg leads in aces. Kramer is 304 for 316, which comes out to 97 percent serving. She has 42 aces. Rabenberg has hit 69 aces, while serving 90 percent.
While Slater, Pinney and Wagner are the only three Lady Tigers to have spent time on the court at state, nearly the entire team has been through the rigors and has been part of the last three years of success.
Bolduan thinks that will play into the Lady Tigers performing well this weekend. She goes back to the injuries and the mid-season slump.
“The team relied on the girls with the experience and the captains to get it turned around,” said Bolduan. “We’re as healthy as can be expected. We like our chances.”