The Faulkton Trojans got everything that the Potter County Battlers had to give on Thursday night, Nov. 7, when they went up against each other in Faulkton to see who was going to move on to the SoDak 16 Playoffs. Unfortunately, the Battlers fell in three sets – 14 to 25, 18 to 25 and 22 to 25. However, the scores are not at all indicative of just how exciting the match really was or how hard the Battlers worked to scare this prima donna to the bone.
More importantly, this second-round regional playoff game squeezed every emotion out of the four Potter County seniors who made their final curtain call when the Trojans, the number two ranked Class B team in the state, ended their season. Jenna Robbennolt, Cassidy Goebel, Autumn Pitlick, and KiTu LeBeau were indeed the backbone to this year’s team, and in this finale these four girls gave everything they had and then some. They put on a show that was worthy of all those teams who came before them and those who will follow. They truly gave Potter County so much to cheer about in their last contest and made anyone who ever wore the red and white proud.
It was unforced errors throughout the match that hurt the Battlers the most because when they were on, they could more than equal the play of the Trojans. There is no doubt in the first set that errors kept them back on their heels. The Battlers wound up playing defense most of the set instead of being on the attack. It was like watching an old car warming up in the dead of winter because it fired right up but quickly started sputtering as the engine warmed.
The girls got the first two points of the set but soon found themselves down 10 to 22. Their next five points started to show promise, and so much hope, because when they finally set up Jenna Robbennolt, she did not disappoint. She crushed two balls that sounded like a cannon going off when they hit the court. Unfortunately, the deficit they found themselves in the first set was just too deep of a hole to dig out of.
The start of the second set frustrated the girls, Coach Jamie Cronin, and all the Potter County fans in the stands because the Trojans jump out to a 6 to 1 lead. But as the set progressed the Battlers offense started clicking and soon, they tied the Trojans at 7 points apiece. Try as they might though, they could not contain the Trojans because all of sudden they found themselves once more trailing 12 to 19. When it looked bad, the girls caught fire and stormed back to get the score to 18 to 22. The resurgence was sparked by Jenna Robbennolt who scored 3 monster kills followed by KiTu LeBeau getting 2, and Autumn Pitlick and Rachel Goebel getting 1 apiece. But the Trojans were not to be denied; they went on to win this set 18 to 25.
The third and last set ever for the four seniors could be placed in a time capsule because it was epic, even though the Battlers came up short. There were nine ties in this set. While the Trojans were slamming the ball and making hellacious blocks, none were better than Captain Robbennolt’s spikes and blocks that she got off on the mighty Trojans. Autumn Pitlick found her grove, too, and she contributed 4 of 5 kills in this set as well. Also stepping up offensively to recorded kills in this final set were KiTu LeBeau and Makaivry Schatz.
All of this pent-up offense and desperation to keep their hopes alive made the Trojans dig deep to fend off an attack that was indeed impressive by the Battlers. Furthermore, the Battlers tallied 25 digs in this set, which surprised the Trojans and their fans. When their big hitters would slam the ball and everyone from the home team would scream believing it was nailing down the win, the Battlers would recover and keep the ball alive to once again threaten the Trojans’ lead. When the Battlers got within one point and it was 22 to 23, it was complete pandemonium in the Faulkton gym. When it looked like Potter County was going take the set, the Trojans eked out the last two points to finally secure their future and cap the season for the Battlers.
What was noticeable to those looking beyond this season was in the final two sets there were many times when the team on the floor for the Battlers consisted of three seniors and three sophomores. It appeared that there was a passing of the baton to signify that all should be fine for the red and white in the future.
But when the curtain finally did fall on this season, in this small gym of a formidable foe, it was so sad to personally witness the seniors taking their last bow ever as a Battler. So many tears were shed. Multiple team hugs were given to outwardly and physically thank these existing stars for their four years of participation, contributions, sacrifices, leadership, and most importantly, for their friendship and dedication to be a Potter County Battler.
Varsity Game Stats – Serving: 53 of 55 / 6 Aces: Leaders: Makaivry Schatz – 3 Aces, Autumn Pitlick – 2 Aces; Attacks: 88 of 102 / 19 Kills: Leaders: Jenna Robbennolt – 7 Kills, Autumn Pitlick – 5 Kills, KiTu LeBeau – 3 Kills; Setting: 80 of 80 / 17 Assists: Leaders: Cassidy Goebel – 16 Assists; Blocks: 1 Block 6 Block Assists: Leaders: Jenna Robbennolt – 1 Blocks 3 Block Assists, Rachel Goebel – 1 Block Asist; Digs: 61: Leaders: Makaivry Schatz – 16, Autumn Pitlick – 12 Digs, Kirstie Lake – 12 Digs.
Stepping on that yellow school bus to make their last drive home as a team was sad and bewildering for the seniors. Sad because what they wanted from this season remained out of their reach and bewildering because on this night when volleyball was their everything, it is now no more. It was the team’s goal this year to get to the SoDak 16 Playoffs; they came up short by one game.
There is no doubt that their minds were telling them that once this bus stops moving, there are to be no more practices, running ladders, doing pushups in front of God and the whole gym, six o’clock morning workouts, riding bouncy uncomfortable buses, eating gas station food, accommodating Hoven players, icing ailments, being ashamed of making an error, listening to underclassmen snivel, and most of all, getting yelled at – especially when all they were doing was trying their hardest.
But on the other side of the coin, listening to their hearts that were loudly screaming, “Hey, without practice we are no more – just a bunch of girls who used to play together as a team.” So, on that bouncy 41-mile trip home in the dark, they realized that practice was to make them the team that other schools had to fight because none of them ever quit. Running ladders was to give them the wind they needed to breathe when tired. Doing pushups during the game was to always build strength and humble them as a team – not as an individual. Making 6 a.m. practices to know they had to perform no manner when. Riding a stupid yellow school bus, well, that was really their time to share their stories and a good laugh. Eating gas station food, unfortunately that was for only developing a taste for what life has to offer. Going out of their way to pick up or drop off Hoven players was to know a true friend is always worth the trip. Icing ailments and other bodily pain was to give them stories to tell their children that if they are to succeed in life, then nothing comes easy. Being ashamed of making an error was their way to tell their teammates that they were sorry of letting them down. Putting up with underclassmen complaining was their job as leaders and to be the best role model that they could be for them. And getting yelled at by Coach – well, “We hated it when she did it but now, we know she did it to make us better, and for that we will always love her.”
In retrospect, the 41-mile trip was way too short for Jenna Robbennolt, Cassidy Goebel, Autumn Pitlick, and KiTu LeBeau because, again, this was their last trip that they will ever take as a player for the Potter County Battler Volleyball Team. So, it is easy to feel their tears drowning them and hear their silent prayer, “Hey, Mr. Bus Driver – it’s okay if you take the long way home.”
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