High School volleyball in South Dakota is scheduled to start competition on Tuesday, August 25. This round up will give you an idea of what to watch for. I’ll give you how I voted in the media pre-season poll plus a list of players to watch in each class.
Jandy's Pre-Season Top Five
1. O'Gorman Knights
Last season O'Gorman and Watertown battled it out all the way from summer team camps to the last set of the state tournament. Watertown pulled out the state title, but after graduating most of their team it opens up a path for the Knights to take over. O'Gorman gets the nod at number one. They move the needle with two sharp setters who can both hit, too. Bergen and Raegen Reilly will run a 6-2 with precision. Both sisters will have a chance to hit, which will help replace the heavy hitting Emma Ronsiek. The Knights added Isabell Steffel in the middle, and Grace Bengford returned. Brynn Askew and Emma Mckay are great defensive players. O’Gorman has plenty of pieces to put together a championship run.
2. Washington Warriors
Washington should be improved despite losing two division one players. They bring back outside hitter Sydni Schetnan, who has verballed to play volleyball and basketball at Louisville for college. She is a 6-5 heavy-hitting competitor who saw limited action last year because of injury. This year she hopes to have a big senior season. Ellie Walker made a big impact as a sophomore last season, and should carry that momentum and become one of the top hitters in the state this year. Head Coach Kelly Schroeder is ready to compete: “We definitely have some shoes to fill, but I am confident that we have the players ready to do so. We are going to be a younger, less experienced team, but I don't think that will be a factor. We will also have a little more depth this year, which will create great competition in practice.” Washington will be young, but by the end of the year Sydni Schetnan and Ellie Walker should have this team in contention.
3. Lincoln Patriots
Lincoln should turn the corner and make a big leap this year. Chloe Brown, Sydni Wietfeld, Baily Plourde and Brynn Kirsch give the team the leadership and stability they haven't had in a while. Head Coach Erinn Thorson is ready to see how the team responds in her second year in charge: “We have seven returning experienced varsity players. Consistency and leadership is the key; we continue to sacrifice for the good of the whole program.”
4. Roosevelt Rough Riders
Roosevelt will be back in the hunt, too. Look for Abby Ward and Mya Vandrovec to become big hitters for the Riders, with Liz Deneven setting them up. They are still a little young, but getting better and better. Head Coach Kevin Vanderwal is excited: “Through the off-season we graduated seven seniors and that's taking a bit to fill. There are players capable, but now the confidence needs to develop, too. With a lack of time together this off-season, it'll be a challenge to see how chemistry is developed between new faces and roles. It'll be a season of trying to mesh players while also trying to stay healthy week to week.”
5. Aberdeen Central Golden Eagles
Aberdeen has a great group of seniors led by Brooklyn Kusler, but with Grace Myhre, Kayleigh Fauth, Hannah Keil and Alli Joerger all back, too, the Golden Eagles become one of the most seasoned groups in the state. Jackie Bindenagel is the head coach, and knows she has a great group to work with: “This group has a great deal of varsity experience. Many of the girls have been starters since their sophomore year. They are a wonderful group of athletes that work hard on and off the court. They are talented athletically, and we should be competitive with every team in the state.”
Ronette Costain and Harrisburg are one of those teams ready to knock on the door. She’s excited about their team chemistry with eight seniors back. Abby Meister will be their top attacker as she moves to the outside. Morrisen Samuels should take a big step up and deliver more kills, too.
Shelley Buddenhagen always brings a great team defensively despite not having a tall team. “We will be undersized once again this season, at the height," she said. "We will be replacing our top two passers from last year and will need to work hard in order to pass at the level needed to succeed.” She does have setter Tenley Buddenhagen back. She was an all-state setter last year and will feed Libby Rounds at middle blocker, and Mikena Moore and Brooke Schiltz on the outside.
Rapid City Stevens Raiders
The Raiders are always in the mix. Bailee Sobczak leads an up-and-coming group of players ready to get back to the top.
The Arrows had a dream season last year with a group of seniors who did almost all the work, but don’t forget they had some younger players who didn’t see the court as much as they would’ve liked. Coach Rosemary Bellum knows it will take a little work to get back to where they want to be: “Watertown lost seven talented seniors and a lot of height. This year will be about building confidence, experience, and working effectively. We will need to learn how to earn points through bigger blockers and be quicker on defense.” Maggie Heesch, Jadyn Hoftiezer and Emerson Smith will lead on this young team.
Brandon Valley Lynx
Head Coach Marette Grage has some talent, and hopes to put it all together for the Lynx this year: “We have high expectations for our varsity this year. We look to be a state qualifying team. We will have a few new faces on varsity this year that will be contributors to the the team's success. Our girls are excited and ready to start the season and continue to grow our program through hard work and dedication.” Brooklyn Grage has a chance to be one of the top attackers in the state, and Morgan Hunt is a skilled middle blocker.
Deb Thill and the Kernels had a setback last year as they try to re-load this season. They’ll have Katy Sebert at setter and Sarah Sebert on the outside, with a huge addition of Lizzie Tyler who played at Wagner last year. Coach Thill is stressing their defense and should see improvement from last year.
PRE-SEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Bergen Reilly, O'Gorman
Bergen is one of the top recruits that South Dakota has ever had in volleyball. She was named one of the 20 finalists for National Freshman of the Year by PrepVolleyball.com last season. USA Volleyball also announced that she was one of 36 athletes in the nation invited to train at the US Olympic training center in Colorado Springs. She has the chance to set and attack this year in O’Gorman’s 6-2 formation. Watch out for the sophomore who has the volleyball world talking.
10 MORE PLAYERS TO WATCH IN CLASS AA
Jandy's Pre-Season Top Five
1. Sioux Falls Christian
SF Christian had a memorable championship win last season. They fought back in the title match and secured their ninth state championship in 13 years. This year, they’re loaded again. Abby Glanzer is the most talented outside hitter in the class. They have a big front line with Brookly Pater and Sydney Tims at middle blocker, plus they have their setter Kelsi Heard back.
2. Dakota Valley
Dakota Valley came up just short last year, and they're hungry to get back to the championship. They'll miss their all-state setter, Ally Beresford, but they have a devastating front line who can put the ball away. Rachel Rosenquist and Taylor Wilshire lead the way, plus they move a talented Logan Miller into the setter position. The Panthers shouldn't miss a beat.
Winner has a ton back from their 27-6 team last year. They'll miss Morgan Hammerbeck, but they return Ellie Brozik on the outside and Maggie Lacompte at libero, as well as their setter, Mackenzie Levi.
Madison is in position to challenge the top teams in the class. They too have some big time postitions to fill, but their younger classes are ready for the challenge. The Bulldogs start with Abby Brooks in the middle; she had over 400 kills as a junior last year, and 112 blocks.
5. Rapid City Christian
Freeland is a great setter and has her choice of several targets. Christian has their top eight in kills all back this year.
PRE-SEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Abby Glanzer, Sioux Falls Christian
Abby was named our Class A Player of the year as a junior last year. She had 374 kills, 41 aces, 290 digs and 35 blocks for the Class A champion Chargers. Glanzer loves playing at SFC: “It’s a high level of volleyball, and we all push each other to be the best we can be,” said Glanzer. She has verbally committed to play at the University of Northwestern in St. Paul.
MORE PLAYERS TO WATCH IN CLASS A
|Riley Freeland||RC Christian|
|Kelsi Heard||SF Christian|
|Brooklyn Pater||SF Christian|
|Rachel Rosenquist||Dakota Valley|
|Sydney Tims||SF Christian|
|Taylor Wilshire||Dakota Valley|
Jandy's Pre-Season Top Five
They’ve won three of the last four in Class B. This season, Head Coach Nora Groft knows the team makeup will be different. “We just had a magical season last year. We’ve never been undefeated. For these kids it’s different, they want to figure out what their roles are and how they can contribute.” The Wildcats are in good shape with Sydney Schell ready to bury the ball and Hannah Schentzel who takes over at setter.
2. Faulkton Area
Faulkton made quite a run last season, and although they lost a lot of leadership, they return one of the best players in the state in Peyton Melius.
Warner has re-stocked the cupboard again. Despite their youth, they should contend in this class. They're led by freshman, all-state sensation Ava Nilsson. She has taken a big step up and plays well beyond her years. Jennifer Aman led the team in kills last year and is back as a junior. In fact they only had one senior graduate from last year’s state tournament team.
4. Chester Area
The team coaches tell me to watch out for is Chester. The Flyers are always good, but with several big-time talents back including Jayda Kenyon, Breckyn Ewoldt and all-state setter Kenna Brown, they could make the jump to great.
Ethan should be set for a charge into the state tournament. Camryn Logan, Hannah Bartscher and Bella Neishem will lead the Rustlers to a solid season.
PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Peyton Melius, Faulkton Area
Peyton is a versatile player on the court. She had 457 kills last year and has over 1,000 in her career so far. Peyton is looking forward to her senior year: “I’m looking forward to play with my classmates one last year.”
MORE PLAYERS TO WATCH IN CLASS B
|Kenna Brown||Chester Area|
|Jade Hutchinson||Kadoka Area|
|Hannah Krog||Elkton-Lake Benton|