SALEM-The winning volleyball culture continues to grow at McCook Central/Montrose, as the Fighting Cougars prepare for their second straight Class A state tournament appearance.
Coach Tami Bies thinks last year's fifth-place finish will help relieve some nerves when No. 2 MCM takes the floor against No. 7 Aberdeen Roncalli at 7:45 p.m. today at the Premier Center in Sioux Falls.
Although, she knows upsets still happen.
"It is easier being the underdog coming in to take somebody out, but I'm hoping we have confidence that we are the No. 2 seed and above some really good teams out there," Bies said.
The Fighting Cougars haven't had many problems playing as the favorite this season. A 12-match winning streak to end the season helped MCM top Region 5 at 22-3, followed by straight-set wins over Platte-Geddes in the region tournament and Dakota Valley in the SoDak 16.
For MCM's success to continue, Bies hopes to force the Cavaliers to play its brand of volleyball.
"I think our strategy is to play our game, the game we know how to play," Bies said. "... I think if we play a fast-paced offense and do what we have to do and take care of business, we'll be alright."
MCM's fast-paced offense paired with multiple threats on the floor makes the Fighting Cougars a hard team to beat.
Bies praised McKenna Kranz (337 digs, 249 kills) and Aleah Ries (276 digs, 242 kills) for their defensive efforts, though both have racked up plenty of kills and digs, thanks in part to setter Emily Bies, who has 840 assists. She also sets it to Jacy Pulse (276 digs, 168 kills), Abigail Van Ruler (186 kills) and Morgan Erickson (111 kills).
Coach Bies has put an emphasis on her team becoming smarter hitters and searching for open spots instead of just hitting hard. Although, with a handful of options, she said the opponent's gameplan usually leads to who has an opportunity to step up and have a big game.
"Any of those girls on any given day could step up and really shine," coach Bies said. "We don't necessarily have one particular girl we go to all the time."
However, for MCM to live up to its No. 2 seed, Bies keyed in on her team's improved serving.
"We've been working on a stronger and more precise serving attack at some of the teams," Bies said. "That helped us a lot in postseason play, so we're still working on becoming that strong, but yet smart serving team."
The Fighting Cougars' improvement in all areas, along with a balanced attack, has helped them win 22 of its last 23 games. All that's left to accomplish is a deep postseason run.
"You just keep winning and winning, and you just feel that winning culture," Bies said. "It's a great atmosphere to be in, to have those winning streaks that we've had and to know when we step on the court, we're going to take care of business."