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Ball Five: Three volleyball titles fought for this weekend

Three state champions will be crowned on Saturday as the Class AA, Class A and Class B volleyball tournaments are played simultaneously at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in Sioux Falls, Thursday through Saturday.

Class A
The Class A tournament features Big Dakota Conference teams Miller and Winner. In Class A it is all about who can unseat defending champion Sioux Falls Christian. While the Chargers won their sixth state title last year, the rest of the field has just two combined state championships.
First-round matches are: top seed Miller vs. eight seed Rapid City Christian; two seed McCook Central/Montrose vs. seven seed Aberdeen Roncalli; three seed Sioux Falls Christian vs. six seed Parker; and four seed Winner vs. five seed Elk Point-Jefferson.
Miller enters state as the number one seed with a 28-2 record. The Rustlers took second place last year and are looking for their first state title. Miller has not lost since falling to Warner on Sept. 4. They dropped their season-opener to Winner but avenged that loss later in the season.
Number two seed McCook Central/Montrose is making its second straight appearance at state after winning the consolation championship last year in the team’s first-ever trip to state. The Fighting Cougars are 24-3 and haven’t lost since a defeat to Sioux Falls Christian on Sept. 11.
The defending state champs, Sioux Falls Christian, head to state as the number three seed. The Chargers are 28-6, but are 19-1 against South Dakota teams. The six-time champions are making their 12th straight state tourney appearance. Their only loss was against Class AA’s third seed, Sioux Falls O’Gorman. The Chargers also beat AA teams Sioux Falls Washington, Watertown and Brookings this year. Brookings and Watertown are also at state this weekend.
Winner is the four seed with a 26-3 record. The Warriors are making their third appearance at state. They took second in state in 2013. Miller is the only team in the state field Winner has faced this year.
Elk Point-Jefferson, the five seed at 27-5, is playing at state for the eighth time, but the first since 2011. Before joining forces, Elk Point won the 1997 state title and went to state nine times from 1982 to 1994. Jefferson won the 1991 B title and was runner-up in 1984. The Huskies have faced Sioux Falls Christian twice this year and Parker once, losing all three matches.
Six seed Parker is making its 12th trip to a state tournament, its second straight and fifth overall in Class A. The Pheasants have never won a state title. They lost to McCook Central/Montrose but won the aforementioned match with Elk Point-Jefferson during the regular season. They also played, and lost to B powerhouses Northwestern and Chester Area, along with dropping a match to Ethan.
Aberdeen Roncalli, the seven seed, is 21-6 on the season. The Cavaliers won the 2002 title and are playing in their fourth state tourney. They played Miller, Northwestern, Warner and Chester Area this season, losing all four matches.
Eight seed Rapid City Christian (25-12) is playing at state for the third time, but the first since 1998. The Comets are the tourney’s unknown component. The only team in any state tourney they’ve faced this year is Faith. The Longhorns beat them 3-0.

Class B
All signs point to another Northwestern vs. Warner title tilt in Class B, but don’t count out three seed Chester Area. The three teams have combined to win the last seven Class B titles.
The tourney opens with: one seed Northwestern vs. eight seed Kimball/White Lake; two seed Warner vs. seven seed Burke; three seed Chester Area vs. six seed Ethan; and four seed Faith vs. five seed Faulkton Area.
Two-time defending champion Northwestern is the number one seed. The Wildcats are 35-2. Their only loss to a South Dakota team was a 3-2 loss to Miller in early September. Their other loss was to 36-5 Western Christian, Iowa. Northwestern, the owner of 10 Class B titles, is playing at state for the 19th time. The Wildcats played, and beat, Warner, Faulkton Area and Chester Area during the season. They also beat Class A teams Aberdeen Roncalli, McCook Central/Montrose and Parker.
Warner is the two seed. The Monarchs are 33-2 on the season with their only losses to Northwestern (3-2) and that same Western Christian club. The Monarchs, five-time champions, are making their third straight and 10th overall appearance at state. The Monarchs claim victories over Burke, Faulkton Area (twice), Chester Area (twice), and Ethan in the Class B field, and Miller and Aberdeen Roncalli in the Class A field.
Three seed Chester Area (25-5) is playing in the final eight for the 12th time. Chester Area won the 2015 state title, while taking second in 2013, ’14 and ’16. Though they lost to Northwestern once and Warner twice during the season, the Flyers also have a win over their first-round opponent, Ethan.
The four/five seed matchup will peak a lot of interest in the area. Four seed Faith has just one loss this year, but it came at the hands of five seed Faulkton Area.
Four seed Faith is 29-1 on the season. The Longhorns are making their second straight and sixth overall trip to state. The Longhorns have never won a state title. They have not seen any team but Faulkton Area in the state field. In that match, Faulkton Area defeated Faith 2-0 at the Battler Tourney in Gettysburg.
Faulkton Area, the five seed at 25-6, is making just its second appearance at state. The first came in 2008. The Trojans have seen the best the tourney has to offer with season losses to Northwestern and Faith. They also have a win over Burke.
Ethan is playing in its first-ever state volleyball tournament. The Rustlers are 27-6 this season. They have two wins over eight seed Kimball/White Lake and losses to Chester Area and Warner to go along with splitting two matches against Class A teams Miller (loss) and Parker (win).
Seven seed Burke (29-7) made its first appearance at state last year as Burke/South Central. The Lady Cougars have two big wins on the season in beating Kimball/White Lake and Class A Winner.
The Kimball/White Lake WiLdKats are the eight seed with a 22-7 record. Kimball/White Lake is making its third appearance at state. Before the co-op, Kimball went to state five times. They do not have a big win to look back on with two losses to Ethan and one to Burke during the season.

Class AA
This little corner of the world doesn’t have much in common with the state’s big schools, but here is a synopsis of what is happening in Class AA.
The Class AA tourney’s opening round is: number one Rapid City Stevens (31-1) vs. eight seed Brookings (15-13); two seed Sioux Falls Washington (28-5) vs. seven seed Sioux Falls Roosevelt (16-13); three seed Sioux Falls O’Gorman (27-5) vs. six seed Mitchell (16-8); and four seed Watertown (22-5) vs. five seed Huron (17-7).
There will be a new Class AA champion as last year’s winner Harrisburg is not in the field.
Rapid City Stevens has not lost since dropping a match to Washington in mid-September. The Raiders have been rolling all year after finishing second in state last year. Stevens is looking for its fourth title.
Sioux Falls Washington, owner of seven state titles, has just three losses to South Dakota opponents, but two are to three seed Sioux Falls O’Gorman.
O’Gorman has not lost to a South Dakota team since mid-September when Stevens beat them 3-2. The Lady Knights are looking for their seventh state title.
After the top three, it will take a major upset for anyone else to make a run at the title.
Watertown has just five losses, but two are to Washington, one to Stevens and one to O’Gorman. The other loss was to Sioux Falls Christian. The Arrows won the 1997 title.
Huron took fifth last year and is appearing at state for the 10th straight year. The Tigers won titles in 1998 and ’99.
Mitchell is playing state for the second year in a row after taking second last year. The Kernels won the 1995 and 2003 titles.
Sioux Falls Roosevelt does have the advantage of playing five times against the tourney’s top three seeds, but the disadvantage of dropping the last four. The Rough Riders won state titles in 1996, 2000, ’06 and ’07.
Brookings is playing at state for the first time since 2002. The Bobcats won the 1985 title.