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Close competition: Cougars, Thunder, WiLdKats battling atop Region 6B

In Region 6B volleyball, it's crowded at the top. Three area teams -- Andes Central/Dakota Christian, Burke/South Central and Kimball/White Lake -- all are having outstanding seasons and all look like threats to make the Class B state volleyball ...

Andes Central/Dakota Christian's Mackenzie Muckey tries for a kill between a pair of Burke/South Central defenders during their match Oct. 10 in Lake Andes. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)
Andes Central/Dakota Christian's Mackenzie Muckey tries for a kill between a pair of Burke/South Central defenders during their match Oct. 10 in Lake Andes. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)

In Region 6B volleyball, it's crowded at the top.

Three area teams - Andes Central/Dakota Christian, Burke/South Central and Kimball/White Lake - all are having outstanding seasons and all look like threats to make the Class B state volleyball tournament next month in Rapid City.

Entering Monday, Burke/South Central led the region standings in seed points with a record of 19-3, thanks in large part to a key four-set win over ACDC in Lake Andes last week. Kimball/White Lake is not far behind at 17-5 and the Thunder are third at 22-5. KWL and ACDC met Monday night in Kimball, with the Thunder winning 25-17, 23-25, 22-25, 25-23 and 15-10.

Burke/South Central has rose to the top of the standings in large part due to a big win streak, as the Cougars have won seven matches in a row and 15 of their 16 matches.

The only loss? Against Kimball/White Lake in tournament play Sept. 23 in Kimball, which was part of a nine-match win streak for the WiLdKats.

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"There's a lot on the line, battling with the regions and the No. 1 seed," Cougars coach Billie Jo Indahl said. "I think every team knows that's important and we've got three really competitive teams at the top."

ACDC coach Rocky Brinkman, whose own team started 17-2 this season, said he expected the top of Region 6B to be closely contested, in part because the other teams have strong young players.

Kimball/White Lake, for example, has five hitters with more than 100 kills this season and three of them are sophomores or juniors (Sara Kunnari, 163; Grace Konechne, 148; and Darby Deffenbaugh, 122). Burke/South Central sophomore Taylee Indahl has 252 kills and junior Lahna Matucha has 182 kills to pace the Cougars.

"I knew Burke/South Central would be pretty strong at the top and Kimball/White Lake usually puts together a strong team," Brinkman said. "You've got Gregory and Avon coming on and playing tough. We're not anything to shake a stick at either."

After the top three, Avon and Gregory are both above .500 on the season, at 10-9 and 11-10, respectively, before a large drop off in wins. The bottom five teams in the region have just 22 wins between them.

And with the new Sweet 16 format in Class B being utilized for the first time this year, the region could qualify two teams - or none, depending on how the two teams to reach that round perform. Coincidentally, as of Monday and if all of the region tournaments were played to seed, Burke/South Central would play Kimball/White Lake in the No. 8 vs. No. 9 game to reach state.

Brinkman, who serves on the South Dakota High School Activities Association's Volleyball Advisory Committee, wasn't a proponent of the Sweet 16 format and admits he's still not, even with the region's strong showing at the top.

"I liked the region representation we had ... but I knew we had to make a change at some point down the road," he said. "I still don't like that someone is going be No. 1 or No. 2 in their region and get the (No. 16) seed and that's going to be tough. But it's volleyball, anything can happen."

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However, Brinkman said he likes that there are no longer districts in Class B, meaning all 10 teams are in the same bracket from the start to try to earn one of two Sweet 16 slots.

"I think it's made volleyball a bit more exciting," he said. "Everyone is looking at the seed points and it changes every day. One day we're on the top and the next minute, we're in third place.

"You ask yourself 'How can you go down to third place when you keep winning?' But the other teams are winning too and that's what's making this fun."

Indahl said her team has openly discussed the importance of seed points, something they won't shy away from.

"I think in the past, the regular season was almost like practice for some teams," she said. "But now, you have to pay attention to the seed points and every game really matters a lot. We know we have to beat great teams and we talk about that a lot."

Related Topics: KIMBALLWHITE LAKE
Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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