As Ms. Molly was tearing up the airwaves with the livestream on www.pottercountynews.com Thursday night in the friendly confines of the Gettysburg High School gymnasium to bring the contest between the Mobridge/Pollock Tigers and Potter County Battlers to all the local sports fans and beyond, she received a congenial text from a fellow journalist from the Mobridge Tribune, Sport Editor Jay Davis. Mr. Davis reminded her that this Sept. 5 meeting was the 64th volleyball match between these two teams and the Tigers held a one game advantage over the Battlers – 32 to 31. With this always highly competitive Class A team to the north starting five juniors and one sophomore, with the Libero being a junior as well this season, and having lost their home opener to Chamberlain (Class A) in five gruelling sets but beating Herreid/Selby (Class B) – a common opponent already with the Battlers – in another three tough sets, there could be no doubt in the ladies wearing the orange and black believing they could keep the hometown girls from bringing this rivalry to all even.
But what the Tigers did not count on was being out played defensively and manhandled up front by the seasoned Battlers. The Battlers are settling into sending four seniors, one junior, and one sophomore all to the end of the court to make that rabbit hop in locked arms over the end line to show everyone in any arena that they are ready to start the fireworks. Then as the contest progresses, they constantly run in basically three to four other players – sophomores and juniors – and this rotation seems to be giving Coach Jamie Cronin a formula that works and improves with each game.
Again, the northern visitors were confident because they had the Battlers down quickly in the first set 5 to 2 before Coach Cronin called her first time out to get the squad focused and working together. The strategy paid off because then Coach Henderson called a time out for Mobridge/Pollock because the home team went up 18 to 13. And of course, after that the Battlers put the pedal to the metal, they beat their guest 25 to 18. The player who really stepped up during this first set was sophomore Makaivry Schatz because beside having two aces and three kills, she turned in one fine defensive performance.
As in the first set, the Battlers were down 12 to 15 in the second set before a time out was called by Coach Cronin. The team responded well because shortly thereafter it was Coach Henderson’s turn call a time out when Potter County distanced themselves from the Tigers 22 to 16, before going on to win 25 to 18. Mobridge/Pollock played well this set with a couple of aces and their big hitter Megan Zahn getting three kills, but the set truly belonged to Jenna Robbennolt from the home team who slammed five kills and dominated the net. Also contributing with kills in this set was Autumn Pitlick, Makaivry Schatz, and Dakota Goebel.
The Play of the Day was in the second set and it happened when the score was tied at 12 to 12. As the ball was set high in the air for Mobridge/Pollock Megan Zahn to slam it, she chose instead to softly tap it in between the Battlers’ frontline and backline players. It looked like the strategic maneuver was going to pay off until sophomore Haylie Ahlemeier suddenly dove from the backline and managed to bump the ball back up into the air at the last possible moment. With the ball only being about 3 or 4 feet in the air and with little velocity on it was again falling back to earth, when KiTu LeBeau, who was facing Haylie and had her back to the net, did the splits like James Brown while throwing her right arm backwards to hit the object with a prayer and enough force to get it back over the net. The heroics by the sophomore and senior stunned everyone in the gym including the Tigers because the ball finally dropped to the floor on the Mobridge/Pollock side to score a point for the Battlers, regain the lead for Potter County, and energized both the home team and its fans – just about everyone was out of their seats and screaming.
In the third and decisive set, the Battlers controlled the set from start to finish. The Tigers got three kills whereas the Battlers tallied six: Jenna Robbennolt – 3, KiTu LeBeau – 2, and Rachel Goebel – 1. Also, in Serving, Mobridge/Pollock netted one kill as compared to Potter County getting five with Makaivry Schatz getting three of them.
The second greatest play of the game occurred in this final set as well. It involved two sophomores, Makaivry Schatz and Kirstie Lake. With the score 16 to 20 in favor of the Battlers but looking like Mobridge/Pollock was making a move to steal the momentum, the Tigers’ Libero hit a hard serve that seemed like it was too hot to handle. But Makaivry dove to the floor to get her right hand underneath the ball and keep it up in the air. Unfortunately, Makaivry’s momentum rocketed the ball backwards and making it head out of bounds in front of the Battlers’ bench. When it looked like it was a lost cause, Kirstie came from nowhere to hit the ball without looking back over her head and back in bounds. In an instant, the ball was going right back to Makaivry who was picking herself up off the floor. So, on her knees Makaivry hit the ball back over to the Tigers’ side of the floor. Two volleys later, Potter County got the point, which cut off Mobridge/Pollock threat and their chance to win a set.
The Battlers totally out played their long-time opponent because offensively they got 68 serves in, out of 74 attempts with 12 aces as compared to the Tigers getting in 23 out of 32 with a total of 7 aces. In attacking the hometown team got 60 out 75 attempts with 23 kills and their guest got 55 out 70 attempts with only 14 kills. The most telling stat defensively was the Battlers recorded 37 digs whereas the Tigers had 7. And again, if they gave out game balls, it would have to go to sophomore Makaivry Schatz who shined both offensively and defensively in all three sets.
The host team was not going to be denied on this night and they did indeed bring this long-standing competition to all even at 32 to 32. The tie breaker could come as early as Sept. 26 when both teams will be featured in the Central South Dakota Conference Tourney to be held at the Gettysburg High School. But for now, this Class B team made up from players from Hoven and Gettysburg are just as good as their Class A counterparts from Mobridge and Pollock.
The next two games for the Battlers are away games and there is no doubt they are going to be tough matches because on Sept. 12 they face off with Faulkton Area (Class B) in Faulkton and as of this date they too are undefeated. Then on Sept. 14 they will clash with always powerful and undefeated Miller Rustlers (Class A) in Miller. The Battlers do not have a home match until Sept. 17 when Highmore/Harrold comes knocking.
In the undercard, the Potter County JV squad beat Mobridge/Pollock 25 – 23 and 25 – 17. Just about the entire squad made the stat sheet so play was indeed well rounded. Haylie Ahlemeier, Ashlee Kaup, Courtney Krueger, and Osprey Vetter recorded Aces. Abbie Larson, Makenna Miller, Osprey Vetter, Dakota Goebel, and Aaliyah Canchola all had Kills. And Haylie Ahlemeier, Kirstie Lake, Makenna Miller, and Courtney Krueger scored Digs as well. Also, the C Team was successful, and they too won in straight sets: 25 -14 and 25 -16. Offensively Tyler Simon, Taelor Zweber, Rylee Kaup, Osprey Vetter, Shelby Figgins, and Csenge Anmai stepped up with Kills, and defensively Ashlee Kaup Megan Hermann, Tyler Simon, Taelor Zweber, Rylee Kaup, Osprey Vetter, and Shelby Figgins shined by recording digs.
Varsity Game Stats – Serving: 68 of 74 / 12 Aces: Leaders: Makaivry Schatz – 5 Aces, Autumn Pitlick – 4 Aces, Kirstie Lake -1 Ace; Attacks: 60 of 75/23 Kills: Leaders: Jenna Robbennolt – 12 Kills, Autumn Pitlick – 3 Kills, Makaivry Schatz – 3 Kills; Setting: 65 of 65/21 Assists: Leaders: Kirstie Lake – 11 Assists, Cassidy Goebel – 7 Assists; Blocks: 4: Leaders: Rachel Goebel – 2 Assists, Jenna Robbennolt – 1 Assist; Digs: 37: Leaders: KiTu LeBeau – 9 Digs, Autumn Pitlick – 8 Digs, Makaivry Schatz – 5 Digs.