Winner upsets No. 1 Belle Fourche to advance to Class A championship
ABERDEEN — After trailing 2-0 in the semifinals of the Class A volleyball state tournament, No. 4 Winner looked all to be headed to third-place match.
But the Warriors (27-3) put together a comeback to upset No. 1 Belle Fourche 19-25, 18-25, 25-18, 25-20, 15-12 Friday in Aberdeen.
“I don't know how to explain it or what to say,” said Winner coach Jamie Keiser, who was still in shock after the win. “I told the girls to go out and have fun, just play the way I know they can and they did."
The Warriors staved off elimination multiple times Friday, but the key moment for the Warriors came in the fifth set, when Belle Fourche took a 6-2 lead. Keiser called a timeout and reassured her team.
The Warriors responded with seven straight points to take a 9-6 lead and took control of the match. Winner went on to win the final set 15-12.
“Deep down I knew it was going to be hard,” Keiser said, “but I said ‘Just please come back and compete.’ I could see the girls were tensed, and I just said ‘Take it one point at a time.’ ”
With the victory, Winner heads to the Class A state tournament finals for the first time, facing No. 2 Dakota Valley at 8 p.m. Saturday.
The Warriors opened the first set with an ace from senior setter Sara Husher, but the Belle Fourche offense took over not long after. Led by Fehrin Ward, Morgan Ham and Taylor Gubbrud, the Broncs dominated the net for much of the match.
Ward and Ham each finished with 15 kills and Ward added 17 digs for a double-double. Gubbrud also recorded a double-double, with 10 kills and 30 digs. Senior setter Liz Day chipped in with 41 assists, three kills and five digs for Belle Fourche.
“What a fun match to play in for the kids to play in,” Belle Fourche head volleyball coach Loree Schlichtemeier said. “We came out really aggressive with our setting, but they got us out of system in the third set with their serving.”
During the first two sets, the Warriors struggled to get the ball to their hitters in position for much of the night. They eventually found their stride and senior Cassidy Hanson finished with nine kills and 15 digs, while junior Kelsey Bertram had six kills and 13 digs.
Things began to click for the Warriors, who found their rhythm in the third set. With the help of Tawny Sherman, who finished the match with eight kills. Winner went on to win the set 25-18.
The Warriors used the momentum they gained from set three to take set four 25-20. During that set, Kennede Mathis began to assert herself as a force on the defensive and offensive end for Winner. The senior middle hitter finished the match with four blocks, four digs and nine kills. Senior outside hitter Lindsey Calhoon also tallied nine kills and 10 digs, while senior defensive specialist Emily Richey added 28 digs.
“It feels amazing to win this game,” Calhoon said. “When we went down 2-0, I knew we could come back. We just had to play our game. “I think we realized how close we were to being done and us five seniors didn’t want to end the season like that.”
Belle Fourche plays the in third-place match against No. 3 Sioux Falls Christian at 6 p.m. Saturday.