SIOUX FALLS-Area volleyball teams had a rough start to the state tournament on Thursday, recording just a 1-5 record in the quarterfinals, with only McCook Central/Montrose avoiding the consolation bracket.
Three area teams made the most of the a three-day event at the Premier Center, however, as MCM, Mitchell and Burke finished the tournament with a 2-1 record, while Winner also bounced back after being the lone higher seed to suffer an opening-day loss to advance to the Class A consolation finals before losing in a wild five-set match to Parker.
Despite losing an opportunity for a state championship right off the bat, Mitchell, Burke and Winner opted to make the best of the situation and continued to play to the best of their abilities.
"We talked after our first-round loss about how we want to finish, how we want to leave or legacy and what we want to do now," MHS head coach Deb Thill said. "It started with (Friday) night, coming out and winning that match. That's a tough one after you lose in the first round. You could see that they didn't want to stop playing volleyball."
Burke was thoroughly handled by eventual Class B state champion Warner in the quarterfinals, but managed to come back the following day with a four-set win over a game Ethan squad and then pulled out a convincing win over Faulkton Area to earn fifth place.
MCM, meanwhile, advanced to the semifinals but lost to Class A juggernaut Sioux Falls Christian, which captured its eighth state championship in the last 12 years on Saturday. The Fighting Cougars were visibly disappointed to not move on to the state title game, but managed to shake it off after a first-set loss to Elk Point-Jefferson on Saturday and won three straight in the third-place match.
"It took us a little while to get our energy up, get our feet going and realize that even though we got beat (Friday) night, we can still play hard for third place," MCM head coach Tami Bies said.
Ethan also managed to shake off back-to-back losses to start its first trip to the state tournament, before finally topping Kimball/White Lake in the Class B consolation match to secure its first state tournament win in school history.
Bartling recovers from health scare to attend state tournament
Brecken Bartling was a key component for Burke this season, but on Nov. 4, life changed for the 6-foot senior middle hitter.
Bartling was having difficulty breathing for a couple weeks, but always managed to power through it. Finally, she couldn't continue to do so and was taken to the hospital, where it was discovered she had blood clots in her lungs.
After blood thinners and a week in the hospital, Bartling was released from the hospital in Sioux Falls and joined her teammates on the bench at the state tournament.
"I was freaking out," Bartling said. "I don't get to play, but at least I get to be here and support them. They're like my second family."
Bartling was told her season was finished and she had to avoid contact sports for the next six months, but she did get to play the first point of each set in Burke's final two matches, recording a block against Faulkton Area.
"It was really great to get out here and watch everyone and help them get fired up to win," Bartling said.
Making a mark in the record book
Morgan Hammerbeck put an exclamation point on an already outstanding season for Winner. On Saturday in the consolation final, the junior recorded 37 kills and 30 digs. Not only were her 37 kills the most by a player in a single match in the tournament, but her 66 in 12 sets were the fourth-most in Class A since switching to a best-of-five setup in 2002.
MCM junior Abigail Van Ruler's 19 blocks and average of 1.7 per set also finished second in Class A tournament history.