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Burke battles with Chester Area but Flyers advance in Class B volleyball semifinals

The Burke volleyball team graced the biggest stage in program history on Friday night, playing in the Class B state semifinals.

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Burke's Elly Witt (3) sets the ball against Chester Area during a Class B state volleyball semifinal match on Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, at the Premier Center in Sioux Falls.
Zech Lambert / Mitchell Republic
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SIOUX FALLS — The Burke volleyball team graced the biggest stage in program history on Friday night, playing in the Class B state semifinals.

For a team that has never been there before and facing one of the bluebloods in Class B volleyball history, the Cougars were in lockstep with Chester Area for nearly the entire night, but the Flyers’ strength and depth showed through by night’s end, picking up a 3-1 win over the Cougars in the state semifinals Friday at the Premier Center. Set scores were 24-26, 25-19, 27-25 and 25-22.

With the win, Chester Area (28-5) goes to the Class B state title match for the first time since 2016. The Flyers will face top-seeded Warner (36-2), which is chasing its second title in as many years and third in the last five state tournaments. Burke (32-5) will face Wolsey-Wessington in the third-place match at 5 p.m. Saturday.

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Burke's Kailee Frank receives a serve from Chester Area during a Class B state volleyball semifinal match on Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, at the Premier Center in Sioux Falls.
Zech Lambert / Mitchell Republic

The match appeared to turn in the third set, with the two teams in close proximity for most of the way. A handful of Adisyn Indahl kills, followed by an Indahl ace put Burke up 24-23 and later 25-24 but the Flyers staved off both, scored the final three points and escaped with a 27-25 win in the set to go up 2-1 for the match.

Chester broke free for an 18-10 lead in the fourth set before Burke nearly reeled the Flyers back in, closing to within three points on two occasions behind five kills late in the set from Kailee Frank. But Burke never fully bottled up Chester’s freshman phenom Lily VanHal, who racked up 23 kills on the night, including two of the final three Flyer points for the match win.

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“They gave everything they had in that match and you could see it on our kids’ faces,” Burke coach Billie Jo Indahl said. “Both teams were drained and defensively, we were saving stuff (from dropping). We just fell short and it’s not fun to be on that end of it but we have to go into (Saturday) thinking that we can get the best finish in school history with third and that’s got to be the goal.”

Burke won the first set with a late rally, scoring seven of the last nine points, while Chester Area controlled matters in the second set to even the match at 1-all. Chester Area coach Jean O'Hara said the team tried to slow down the Cougars’ dynamic duo of hitters as much as possible.

“Indahl and Frank are such great players and we did our best to just try to not let them control the pace of the game and they still did for stretches of the contest anyway,” O’Hara said. “In a battle like that, we just needed a few more balls to fall our way and they really did for us tonight.”

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Burke celebrates a point against Chester Area during a Class B semifinal volleyball match on Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, at the Premier Center in Sioux Falls.
Zech Lambert / Mitchell Republic

Burke’s night was highlighted by a number of exceptional plays keeping balls up and alive to potentially score a point, something that was emblematic of the entire season, coach Indahl said. That point was apparent on the stat sheet, as the Cougars finished with 124 digs, while the Flyers had 92. Elle Johnson had a match-high 37 digs for Burke, with 27 from Indahl, 25 from Frank and 12 from Elly Witt.

“They’re scrappy. They don’t let anything go down,” she said. “We almost saw our libero dive into the bleachers, thank goodness she stopped before she got there. That’s what they do. They hustle after everything.”

Frank finished with 18 kills and 14 came from Indahl, along with 11 from Emmie Hausmann. Witt had 28 set assists and four aces, while Paige Bull, Hausmann and Piper Hanson had three total blocks each.

For Chester, Jacy Wolf and Addison Bates each had 11 kills. Wolf added 28 set assists and 15 digs, while Kaylor Geraets had 25 digs. VanHal had three aces and 13 digs.

“We kept them out of system a couple more times and that might have made the difference for us,” O’Hara said. “I think if you were a fan in the stands, that was a pretty good match to watch.”

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For a team with only three seniors and with a number of returners making key plays in Friday’s match, there was a silver lining for the Cougars’ future.

“Our kids made plays,” coach Indahl said. “They’re super hard on themselves. But they’re young and they’re going to make mistakes. It’s about having that mentality of handling hard better. Matches like this make us better.”

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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