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Miller escapes past MCM

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McCook Central/Montrose's Abigail Van Ruler, left, and Maleah Gordon both dive for the ball during a match against Miller at state tournament in Rapid City.

RAPID CITY -- Miller proved tough to put away in every set, and it was equally as difficult in the fifth set.

The Rustlers’ rode their pair of powerful hitters past McCook Central/Montrose on Saturday at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center to take third place in Class A. Miller escaped the back-and-forth affair, 25-20, 23-25, 28-26, 22-25 and 15-4.

“We have a habit of starting out slow, and it doesn’t work very good when you only play to 15,” MCM senior Jacy Pulse said. “But we have to realize we made it this far and fourth in the state is still very good.”

The Fighting Cougars (25-6) didn’t experience many slow starts until the fifth set. Not even an MCM timeout slowed down Miller, which took a 7-1 lead. The Fighting Cougars couldn’t get closer than five points as the Rustlers (33-4) ended their season on a 4-0 run.

“They have some really good hitters,” MCM coach Tami Bies said. “We couldn’t get a block up to stop them. Playing defense on them, we couldn’t figure out where to do that.”

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MCM knew Kansas State University commit Kadye Fernholz was going to get her points, but it wanted to limit Miller’s other attackers. However, the Fighting Cougars were left searching for answers when she was paired with VonnaGail Schlechter in the front row.

Fernholz finished with 25 kills and 24 digs and Schlechter added 24 kills and 19 digs, in part due to Rachel Oligmueller’s match-high 59 assists.

“Kadye and VonnaGail are both really good,” said Pulse, who led MCM with 23 kills. “When they’re both in the front row, they’re really hard to block. You never know which way they’re going to go.”

MCM weathered Miller’s powerful hitters to come away with two sets. After leading by as many as eight points and 24-19, the Fighting Cougars held on to win the second set 25-23. In the fourth set, Miller erased a 17-13 lead, but at 21-all, MCM won three straight points.

The Fighting Cougars had their chances in the first and third sets, too, but couldn’t break through. With the first set tied at 20-all, Miller won five straight points. In the third set, Miller erased a 21-17 deficit.

“The sets we won and the sets we didn’t, I could feel we were kind of not motivated in between sets,” Pulse said. “I think energy and momentum was a big thing that contributed to them beating us in those sets.”

Pulse finished with 17 digs, while Aleah Ries added 15 digs and 14 kills. Emily Bies dished out 46 assists to go with 22 digs, while Abigail Van Ruler added nine kills and five blocks.

“I’m pleased with our fourth-place finish,” coach Bies said. “These girls have worked hard. To make it to three state tournaments is quite a feat for these (seniors).”

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