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Winner falls 3-1 in Class A championship

Winner's Sara Husher passes the ball during the finals of the Class A state tournament against Dakota Valley Saturday in Aberdeen. (Aaron Saunders/Republic)

ABERDEEN — The Winner volleyball team's bid for its first state title fell short Saturday as the Warriors fell to Dakota Valley 25-21, 27-25, 22-25, 25-17 in the championship of the Class A state tournament.

With the win, No. 2 Dakota Valley secured its first volleyball title in school history. The Panthers played in the state championship match last year but fell to Sioux Falls Christian, which took third this year.

“It feels amazing. This is just a great accomplishment for these young ladies,” Dakota Valley volleyball coach Rick Pruett said. “All season long they practice hard and did what we asked of them, so I couldn't be more proud of them.”

With help from senior right side hitter Jayde Bermann, Dakota Valley (28-3) took control of the game from the start. Bergmann recorded kill after kill in the opening sets to help the Panthers to a two-set lead.

Bergmann finished with a match-high 21 kills to lead the Panthers. She also recorded 18 digs, while senior middle hitter Morganne Pfaffle added 10 kills and 16 digs and senior outside hitter Hannah Bauer had 11 kills and 16 digs.

The trio of front row players gave the No. 4 Warriors trouble with its length and efficiency around the net. Despite having problems with the front row, the Warriors were able to keep it close in each set, but when it counted, Dakota Valley stepped up.

“I thought we seemed a little bit tired defensively,” Winner volleyball coach Jaime Keiser said. “We knew they were a good serving team. I think we struggled in serve receive all game. We knew Bergmann was the key and we had to get blocks up on her, but they had other hitters that did a great job."

All season, Winner (27-4) prided itself on its ability to come back. Yet after dropping the first two sets Saturday, the Warriors once again found themselves in a rallying position.

After trailing 2-0, a three-set sweep was on the rise, but the Warriors mustered up confidence and came away with a 25-22 win in the third.

The Warriors were aided by several net violations that Dakota Valley was penalized for. Winner built an impressive 19-8 lead during the set, but the Panthers rallied with a 12-0 run to take a 20-19 lead. After a trade of points, Winner wrestled control away from Dakota Valley and won the set on a Kennede Mathis kill.

Mathis, a senior middle hit-ter, tallied four kills and three blocks, Lindsey Calhoon finished with a team-high 10 digs and 26 digs and Cassidy Hanson added nine kills and 20 digs for Winner.

“We are one big family and we love each other so much,” Hanson said. “We waited for years for this day and I know a lot of other teams wanted to be in the state championship. We really pushed hard for the win, but we fell a little short. I am still proud of my team.”

NOTES: Members of the all-tournament team are Belle Fourche’s Morgan Ham and Fehrin Ward; Dakota Valley’s Hannah Bauer, Jade Bergmann and Lindsey Smith; Sioux Falls Christian’s Stacy Smidt and Kristin Stern; Wagner’s Kim Koupal and Brooklyn Tolliver and Winner’s Lindsey Calhoon, Sara Husher and Cassidy Hanson.