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Winner having banner year in girls' athletics

WINNER — There were many tears on the Winner bench, after the Warriors lost to St. Thomas More 70-39 in the finals of the Class A girls’ basketball state tournament.

The Warriors were disappointed, and admittedly so had great reason to be. But what hadn’t sunk in was the feat many of the girls on the team had accomplished by reaching the Class A girls’ basketball state final.

Emily Richey, Sydney Fritz, Bailey Volmer, Kylie Horstman, Lindsey Calhoon, Cassidy Hanson, Kelsey Bertram, Tawny Sherman, Sara Husher, Kennede Mathis and Dusti Littau all became the first Winner girls athletes to reach a state tournament final in girls’ basketball and volleyball in the same school year.

“There are so many other teams in the state that didn’t get to do what we did and get to two finals,” said Calhoon, who will be playing volleyball at Dakota Wesleyan University in the fall. “There are so many teams that wanted to be in the place that we were in. We accomplished a lot this season in both sports that we haven’t in past season, and we are really proud of that.”

The Warriors ended the volleyball season with a second-place finish after falling to Dakota Valley at state. Winner, which entered the volleyball tournament as the No. 4 seed, upset top-seeded Belle Fourche in a five-set thriller to earn its place in the volleyball final.

Winner came into the state basketball tournament as the No. 3 seed. The Warriors slipped past Mount Vernon/Plankinton in the quarterfinals, pulling out a 52-46 overtime win. Winner earned another close victory Friday as it upset No. 2 seed Elk Point-Jefferson 59-55.

“This group of girls doesn’t have one standout in my opinion,” said Stacy Norrid, Winner assistant volleyball coach and 1990 graduate. “They want to play as a team and the ultimate goal is to win. They don’t care how they win, they just want to get the job done. These girls’ have worked their tails off to get where they are and two state championship finals are very special.”

Another Winner supporter who made the three and a half hour drive to watch the Warriors compete for the Class A title was Craig Brown, uncle of Winner forward Cassidy Hanson. Brown said he couldn’t make it to the volleyball tournament, but watched it on TV and knew he had to come show his support at the basketball state tournament.

“This is very awesome for Winner,” said Brown, who graduated from Winner in 1992. “The group of girls that they had for volleyball and basketball is just a great bunch of athletes. Upperclassman and lowerclassman they just have a lot of good athletes for girls sports this year.”

Both Norrid and Brown remembered the last time the Warriors girls’ basketball team made the Class A state finals, which was 1990. Both said reaching the finals gave the town a sense of pride and that they were happy to see people supporting this year’s group.