Wolverines turn things around to earn state berth
By Jay Davis
When the team was struggling through a 2-7 stretch in the middle of the season, it was hard to look ahead and see a team that was going to gel and become district and region champions. But that is exactly what the Herreid-Selby Area Wolverines did.
The team finished the regular season on a tear with six wins in the their last seven matches, including the last four in a row, before taking off on a postseason run to earn the right to play in the State B Volleyball Tournament in Huron starting Thursday.
“We had some struggles from the beginning,” said coach Jody Schmidt. “But they only made the girls stronger. I marvel at their work ethic.”
Schmidt said that another trait that helped push this team to reach its goals is the unselfishness they portray.
“They don’t care who gets the stats,” said Schmidt. “They just want to win.”
The Wolverines started the season on a 7-1 tear, but then started floundering on the court. Some of the struggles came from injury and illness, but some came from the team having to find out what it was and where some of the players should to be on the court to create success.
“We needed kids in difference places,” said Schmidt. “As a coach you have to put your kids in position to win.”
The reshuffling of the lineup began to show progress, but it was a loss, not a win, that created the momentum the girls used to propel them to a hot run late in the season.
“The key was at Faulkton,” said Schmidt. “Even though we lost, we gained confidence. For some reason it started to switch.”
Faulkton Area was well on its way to becoming one of the top seeds in the district at the time. The Wolverines nearly pulled off the upset, before the Trojans won 15-13 in the fifth set.
Schmidt said the girls were able to look at that match and realize they could play at the level of the best teams in the district. It was also a time when some of her upperclassmen took it upon themselves to take the leadership role needed from the team’s most experienced players. Seniors Haylee Biel and Kelsey Quaschnick and junior Abbey Fjeldheim are players who have been through two previous state tournaments and understand best the rigors of postseason volleyball.
Schmidt said the difference in the girls has been noticeable on the court.
“Their emotions have come a long way,” said Schmidt. “Their reactions have become more dynamic. It shows how much they love playing the game.”
After hitting the road to avenge the loss to Faulkton Area in the district semifinals, beating Ipswich 3-1 for the District 3B title and then beating Sully Buttes 3-1 in Onida for the Region 2B championship, the road keeps going up hill and gets even steeper for the Wolverines.
Herreid-Selby Area, entering state as the eighth seed, draws the unenviable task of taking on the defending state champion Warner Monarchs.
“The girls are excited to play Warner,” said Schmidt.
Warner beat the Wolverines 25-5, 25-7, 25-14 in early October, but that was not the same Herreid-Selby Area team that will be lining up at noon on Thursday.
“Last time we played them, Abbey (Fjeldheim) and Jana (Thorstenson) were out,” said Schmidt, adding that the Wolverines were forced to line up 5’6” eighth-grader Charlie Tisdall against a 6’2” senior that night.
Schmidt said the Wolverines will hit the court knowing they are the underdogs, but also knowing they have nothing to lose and can put it all on the line while trying to pull off the upset.
“Anytime you go out you play as hard as you can and control what you can control,” said Schmidt.
The Wolverines have an unmistakable leader in 6’0” senior middle hitter Haylee Biel. An honorable mention all-state player last season, Biel has taken her game to another level this year. Biel has put up huge numbers this season. She has 279 kills to go along with 114.5 blocks at the net (regular season numbers). She is second on the team in serving with 45 aces and fourth on the team with 161 digs.
Jana Thorstenson, 5’9” junior, is second on the team in kills with 158, second with 46 blocks and third in digs with 177. She leads the team in serving with 47 aces and has served 114 straight times without an error.
Kelsey Quaschnick, 5’6” senior, is second on the team in digs with 216 and adds numbers across the board. She is third on the team with 69 kills and third in serving with 42 aces, while adding 28 assists and a dozen blocks.
Grace Russell, 5’5” senior, is the team’s leading setter. She set 1,260 for 1,285 with 372 assists during the regular season, while adding 155 digs, 52 kills and 10 aces.
Libero Abbey Fjeldheim, 5’2” junior, leads the defense. Despite missing considerable time with illness this season, she still racked up a team-leading 286 digs, while dishing out 49 assists and serving 15 aces.
Also playing major roles for the Wolverines are 5’7” senior McKenzie Reierson (50 kills), 5’5” junior Paige Feist (33 aces), 5’5” freshman Kara Thorstenson (154 assists), 5’0” freshman Grace Goehring (48 digs) and 5’6” eighth-grader Charlie Tisdall (33 kills).
Warner counters with a team bent on repeating as state champions. The Monarchs are led by returning all-state setter Ashley Rozell. The junior has 735 of the team’s 852 assists during the regular season, while setting at an astounding pace. Rozell was 1,426 of 1,433 sets heading into the postseason. She is also second on the team in digs with 119 and serving with 76 aces. The Monarchs have height and power up front. Seniors Miranda Ristau, Carly Rozell and Kari Gascoigne are 6’2”, 6’1” and 6’1” across the net. Ristau leads the team with 308 kills. Rozell has 201 kills and Gascoigne has 86. Junior Jaici Schlosser, 5’8,” is third on the team with 155 kills. Ristau and Gascoigne lead the net defense with 37.5 and 32.5 blocks, respectively. Junior libero Kaitlyn Boesl leads the way defending the back row with 231 digs. Boesl is the leading server with 77 aces. Carly Rozell has 73 aces and Mallory Testerman has 51.