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Lyman volleyball team returns to state tourney

Lyman’s Brooklyn Halverson sets the ball during the first round of the Class B state volleyball tournament last year at the Corn Palace in Mitchell. (Aaron Saunders/Republic)

The Lyman High School girls’ volleyball team is set to play in its second consecutive state tournament starting tonight.

Prior to reaching last year’s Class B state tournament, the Raiders sat out of the tournament for 17 years.

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Today, the No. 6 Raiders (24-8) play No. 3 Chester Area in the opening round of the Class B state tournament at 6 p.m. at the Huron Arena in Huron.

“It’s been a total program change,” Lyman coach Jill Whalen said. “You come in with a vision as a coach, and you hope that the girls will latch onto it and this group has.”

Having not been to state for 17 years, last year’s Raider team showed its inexperience. Lyman finished eighth, failing to take a match, but Whalen sees the experience as a positive one for a now seasoned group looking to make a little noise this year.

“Last year the community, fans and our team were just so excited about going to the state tournament,” said Whalen, who is in her first year as the Raiders’ head coach after being with the team as an assistant for three years.

“This year our team is focused on how we can beat the teams that are here, rather than just being here to experience the state tournament.”

Last year, the Raiders lost an opening-round match to Parker in straight sets, putting Lyman in the consolation bracket where it lost four-set matches to Andes Central and Timber Lake.

Lyman made its way to Huron Wednesday to get a practice in on the Huron Area floor prior to the start of the tournament. The Raiders will face a tough first-round match against Chester Area (26-2).

“They are a very powerful and aggressive team,” Whalen said. “It will take a lot of effort on our part to get the ball to hit the floor on their side of the net.”

The Lyman attack is led by the all-around game of Anna Flitner. The senior outside hitter leads the Raiders in a number of statistical categories, racking up 463 kills, 65 aces and 555 digs.

“Anna has been the player that we depend on,” Whalen said. “She is the one player that plays all the way around for us. She is our leader in terms of stats, but she is also the vocal leader.”

Flitner is also tied for the team lead in blocks with Jessica Welter.

Welter, along with Bailey Almond, added senior leadership for Lyman this season, according to Whalen.

Welter has racked up 209 kills, 36 aces and 78 digs for the Raiders.

“Jessica has really come on here toward the end of the season and it is nice to have her peaking at the right time,” Whalen said.

Almond leads Lyman with 371 assists, to go along with 168 digs and 39 aces.

“Bailey brings energy to our team and she is a spark plug for us,” Whalen said.

Freshman Hanna Thiry has added depth to the Lyman lineup, racking up 342 assists and 146 digs as a defensive specialist. Thiry has shown great consistency for the Raiders despite her youth, according to Whalen.

The road to the Class B title for all teams goes through Warner, which won the championship in 2012. Warner comes into the state finals with a record of 30-1, with its lone loss coming at the hands of a Class AA Sioux Fall O’Gorman squad.