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Eagles face off against experienced Arlington in first round

Brooke Cersosimo/Republic Andes Central's Sierra Svatos sets the ball against Hanson in the Region 6B volleyball tournament Nov. 6 in Menno.

LAKE ANDES -- No. 4-seeded Andes Central begins its quest for a state title against No. 5-seeded Arlington at the Class B state volleyball tournament at 1:45 p.m. today at the Corn Palace in Mitchell.

The Eagles (29-3) qualified after beating Hanson in four sets in the Region 6B tournament. Andes Central made the state tournament in 2010 and took fifth place, but it did not qualify last season.

The Eagles have five current players who contributed to the 2010 squad, including Dennisha Johanneson, Kellie Winckler, Krista Winckler, Sierra Svatos and Hayli Gray.

Head coach Rocky Brinkman said his team is ready for state after the long season.

"We've been practicing since August, and now they're ready to get into state and not practice anymore," said Brinkman, whose team has yet to play Arlington this season. "We have kept practices intense this week and we're ready."

Through the regular season, the Winckler sisters led the Eagles. Kellie Winckler had 264 kills, 311 digs and 55 aces and Krista Winckler had 223 kills, 228 digs and led the team with 89 blocks.

Johanneson was the team's third leading hitter with 149 kills in the regular season and Gray added 110 kills for the Eagles. Svatos had 598 set assists.

Brinkman said regardless of the team's record, the Eagles felt like underdogs during the season.

"We weren't rated all year, which is a good thing because we didn't get much attention," he said.

Arlington (30-5) defeated Chester Area to earn its state tournament berth. The Cardinals have made the state championship match for three straight years, winning the title in 2010.

Samantha Boeck made the 2011 all-tournament team and led the Cardinals in kills this season with 580. Boeck also led Arlington in blocks with 81 this season. Jadyn Christensen followed Boeck with 152 kills and led the Cardinals defensively with 218 digs. Brett Heuer had 2,048 set assists.

Brinkman said his team is focusing on the things it can control.

"We've been concentrating on our offense and jump serves this week," he said. "Preparing to play tough competition is heavy on everybody's mind. Every team here is going to be tough, so we've got to bring our game or it'll be difficult to move forward."

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.