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Lyman's Flitner named Daily Republic volleyball player of year

PRESHO — The Lyman Raider volleyball team has emerged as a force, and the rise to success runs parallel with the career of Anna Flitner.

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“She has a passion for volleyball that is special,” first-year Lyman head coach Jill Whalen said of Flitner. “She works very hard and is always pushing our team to the next level.”

The senior led Lyman to fifth place at the Class B state tournament. The two wins Lyman picked up at state were the first for the school in 17 years. The Raiders finished eighth at the 2012 state Class B tournament.

“This season was amazing and was a great way to end my career,” Flitner said. “After our region win, we knew we had a chance to improve on our finish last year.”

Flitner did a little bit of everything for the Raiders, playing in the front and back row. She rarely left the court for Lyman, which finished 25-9.

For her performance, Flitner has been named The Daily Republic’s volleyball player of the year. The award is given annually and is voted on by the three members of the newspaper’s sports staff. The winner is determined by a points system that awards five points for each first-place vote. All players in The Daily Republic’s coverage area are considered and the voting is based on individual and team success.

Flitner garnered two of the three first-place votes and 14 of a possible 15 points.

Mitchell’s Taylin Alm was a close second in the voting, picking up 13 points and the other first-place vote. Alm won the player of the year award in 2012. Other players receiving votes this year were Wagner’s Kim Koupal, Winner’s Sara Husher and Cassidy Hanson, and Sanborn Central/Woonsocket’s Marissa Weber.

Flitner, a Class B all-tournament team selection and the Western Great Plains Conference MVP, filled the stat sheet for Lyman all season.

From her outside hitter position, she racked up a Lyman single-season record 485 kills, averaging 4.6 per set.

“The record was something I was striving for and I feel like it’s a big accomplishment,” Flitner said.

Flitner finished her four years of high school volleyball with 1,291 kills.

“She has wanted to be that big hitter since she got to high school,” Whalen said. “She has always pushed herself to make sure she is the best volleyball player she can be.”

Flitner was able to excel on offense for the Raiders despite being just 5-foot-7. Typically, dominant outside hitters push the 6-foot mark, but size has never been a problem for Flitner.

“She’s a little shorty out there,” Whalen said jokingly, adding that her hard work in the offseason helped Flitner learn how to become a stronger hitter.

She also had 68 aces and 24 double-doubles (compiling double figures in two statistical categories in a single match). Flitner’s serving was nearly flawless and she has developed an understanding of how to play that part of the game, according to Whalen.

Defensively, she finished the season with 584 digs and added 81 blocks, which were both team highs for Lyman.

“She’s our rock, and when the team needed a kill or a big dig, Anna was there,” Whalen said, who took over the head coaching duties for Lyman this season after three years as an assistant and co-head coach for the Raiders.

During her first three seasons playing for Lyman, Flitner had the opportunity to have her mother, Renee Thomas, as the Raiders’ head coach. She remained on the coaching staff this year.

“She grew up on the volleyball court,” said Thomas, recalling taking her daughter to volleyball practices when she was just 2 weeks old.

“I enjoyed standing back and letting her experience the glory that she earned with her team, but after big matches she would always find me and give me a special hug. Not many parents get to experience that.”

When Flitner hit middle school, she took her early passion for the game onto the court with her mother there the whole time.

“She pushes me and keeps me in line,” Flitner said about having her mother as a coach.

Flitner is now transitioning to the basketball court, where she expects to play a versatile role for the Raiders this season. She is also a member of the Lyman track and field team and went to the state finals in the triple jump last season.

Flitner carries her success from the court over to the classroom, where she maintains a 4.0 grade point average. In college, she plans to pursue her passion for science and math in a pre-med program.

Volleyball is a part of the plan going forward for Flitner, who said she has been in contact with several schools, including the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, about playing at the next level.

Whalen sees Flitner fitting in as a defensive specialist at the college level, while her ability to attack from the back row will add to her value.

“She really wants to play college volleyball and has put in the hard work to improve her all-around game,” Whalen said.

Here is a look at the other players who received votes, with the point totals in parentheses:

  • Alm (13): A first-team all-Eastern South Dakota Conference selection, Alm broke her own school record for kills in a single season at Mitchell. She finished with 457 kills on the season and a record 1,160 for her career. The Kernels finished 9-13 and were knocked out in the district round of the state playoffs.
  • Koupal (7): In leading her team to fifth place at the Class A state tournament, Koupal racked up 344 kills, 452 digs and 66 aces. She was named to the Class A all-tournament team.
  • Husher (6): The Winner setter led her team with 793 assists, while adding 333 digs and 50 aces. Husher was selected to the Class A all-tournament team and was a key component to helping the Warriors to the title game.
  • Hanson (4): With a team-high 306 assists for Winner, Hanson was named to the Class A all-tournament team. She added 432 digs and 38 aces this season for the Warriors.
  • Weber (1): Weber led Sanborn Central/Woonsocket to the District 6B championship and was named to the Custer Battlefield Highway and the 281 all-conference teams (the team competes in both conferences). She finished the season with 318 kills, 78 aces, 55 blocks and 264 digs. The Blackhawks’ season ended in the Region 3B tournament.

Past Daily Republic volleyball players of the year:

2001-Marcy Jacobsen, Mitchell

2002-Chelaine Knudsen, Andes Central

2002-Chelsey Miller, Mitchell

Note: 2002 season switch

2003-Katrina Brooks, Andes Central

2004-Gina Baldwin, Mitchell

2005-Kelli Fiegen, Parkston

2006-Jena Doom, Wagner

2007-Kelli Fiegen, Parkston

2008-Keaya Weber, Wagner

2009-Jilanne Doom, Wagner

2010-Charlee Nelson, Mitchell

2011-Dana Misiaszek, Mitchell

2012-Taylin Alm, Mitchell