Coach, team on cusp of volleyball milestones
By Jay Davis
After finishing seventh at the State A Volleyball Tournament last fall, the Lady Tigers are back and ready to make another run in the postseason.
The season starts Saturday at Chamberlain, and if the Lady Tigers can get a win, the season will have started with a bang. The first win of the season will give coach Keri Bolduan the 200th victory of her career.
After nine seasons, Bolduan is 199-80. In those nine years, the Lady Tigers have won seven district titles and made six trips to the state tournament, last year being the fourth straight year at the final eight.
Bolduan says the success comes from the quality of the young ladies who have been in the Mobridge volleyball program.
“We have great athletes,” said Bolduan. “We’ve had great kids and it is still growing.”
She said one of the biggest factors has been the early development of players. Bolduan and her husband/assistant coach, Rick, have been working with grade school girls in MYO volleyball as long as they have been coaching.
The volleyball program will reach a milestone when the team wins its fifth match this season. Since the inception of volleyball in 1988, the Lady Tigers have rung up a record of 495 wins, 329 losses and 22 ties. Win number five this season will be the 500th win for the Lady Tiger volleyball program.
“It has been an awesome program almost since day one,” said Bolduan.
Milestones aside, the Lady Tigers have bigger and better goals for the season. That starts with making a fifth straight trip to state. It will have to be done without winning a district title this year. The SDHSAA has consolidated the postseason, meaning the teams will go straight to region play. Region 6A is the Lady Tigers, Chamberlain, Cheyenne-Eagle Butte, Crow Creek, Miller and Winner. Old District 11A foes McLaughlin and Stanley County have dropped to the Class B ranks.
“Winner and Miller will be our toughest opposition,” said Bolduan.
The Lady Tigers did lose three seniors from last year’s team, including Kady Pinney, Ariel Bieber and two-year setter Callie Slater. But the Lady Tigers also bring back a bounty of starters who played at state last year. The Lady Tigers will be led at the net by seniors Ellie Rabenberg and Kayleigh Henderson and junior Aundrea Kramer and in the backcourt by junior Maranda Wagner.
Bolduan said it has been a boon to have a full front line back with junior Becca Martin in her first year at the setter position.
“It’s nice because there’s not a single position where she’s afraid for the ball to go,” said Bolduan. “Becca has really stepped up this summer. She’s filling Callie’s shoes nicely.”
Along with Martin, junior Alexis Frey moves into the other right hitter position. It is a spot that will also be filled by junior Chelsey Hoffman. Sophomore Kylee Wagner moves into the net crew as a middle hitter.
The team will be deep at all positions as 16 girls have earned the right to wear the varsity jersey. Also playing varsity are juniors Brandi Martian, Kayla Schneider, Kara Schneider, Miranda Eisemann and Keely Moriarty and sophomores Alexis Schaefbauer, Cassi Heumiller and Madison Rau.
With the experienced veterans blending in with the new starters, the on-court communication will be a key to this year’s success. Bolduan is more than happy with what she has seen from that part of the team during the preseason.
“This is the most talkative team we’ve had in a while,” said Bolduan. “They have all been working hard, hustling and diving all over the place.”
The Lady Tigers open the season with two straight road matches. After Chamberlain they head to Ft. Yates, N.D., to square off against Standing Rock on Sept. 3 before hosting Eureka-Bowdle for the home opener on Sept. 10.
If the Lady Tigers can mold themselves into the kind of team they expect themselves to be, more milestones will be surpassed by the end of the season.
Saturday will mark the 19th game played between the Lady Tigers and Chamberlain. The rivalry started back during the 1998-99 season. The Lady Tigers lead the series 12-6, but Chamberlain won two of three matches last years. The Lady Tigers won the season-opener 25-20, 25-15, 25-23 at home. The Cubs beat the Lady Tigers 25-22, 27-25 at the Big Dakota and 22-25, 25-21, 25-16 at the Central Conference.
The Lady Tigers have won all eight meetings against Standing Rock since the teams started playing in 2005. Mobridge-Pollock won 25-4, 25-7, 25-9 last season.