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Experience helps Tripp-Delmont/Armour volleyball soar as playoffs approach

The Nighthawks are off to a 14-3 start this year and sits at No. 7 in Class B

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Tripp-Delmont/Armour celebrates a point against Corsica-Stickney during a high school volleyball match on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Corsica.
Zech Lambert / Mitchell Republic
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TRIPP, S.D. — Tripp-Delmont/Armour's volleyball team has quietly jelled into one of the better teams in Class B this season.

At 14-3 and still with five matches and a tournament to go, the Nighthawks are creeping up on matching their win total from last season that saw them go 17-14.

However, this season’s record may be more indicative of a good team than last season’s. In 2021, TDA was 3-12 against teams above .500 and 14-2 against teams below .500.

This season, though, the Nighthawks currently sit at No. 7 in the Class B seed-point standings, a steep climb from the 31st position they finished last year in. On top of that, TDA has improved against quality opponents and is still taking care of its lesser opponents, going 5-3 against foes above .500 and a perfect 9-0 against teams under that mark.

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Tripp-Delmont/Armour's Mia Reiner goes for a kill as Corsica-Stickney's Sophie DeLange (2) and Sutten Eide (9) go for a block during a high school volleyball match on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Corsica.
Zech Lambert / Mitchell Republic

For coach Mandi Holbeck, the difference for TDA this year is another year of experience.

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“They've been playing together for a while, timing is clicking,” she said after TDA beat Corsica-Stickney in three sets on Thursday, Sept. 29. “They’re experienced players, and … it shows.”

Coming into the season, one of the question marks was the back row, she said, after graduating libero Emma Fink. But instead of remaining an unknown and becoming a weakness, it’s become a strength for TDA.

The Nighthawks have had a multitude of players step into roles this season, with senior Callie Westendorf taking over the libero spot and playing well, according to Holbeck. Eighth-grader Mia Reiner has also been a bright spot and was someone Holbeck said came into the season and performed well, much to the delight of her coach.

“I didn’t know if she’d be ready for that role,” Holbeck said of Reiner. “She’s doing a great job.”

Senior Gracey Schatz has also taken to the back row and been one of the Nighthawks’ best players all season. She’s been one of the go-to players up front at middle blocker, as well, along with junior Megan Reiner.

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Tripp-Delmont/Armour's Gracey Schatz goes for a kill as Corsica-Stickney's Ashlyn Lefers goes for a block during a high school volleyball match on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Corsica.
Zech Lambert / Mitchell Republic

“Definitely I think our middles are strongest — Megan and Gracie,” Holbeck said. “I think other teams know that too. And they kind of hold the block there and teams kind of key on them.”

There’s been more shuffling of positions and players playing well no matter what they’re asked to do, and Morgan Gemar is the epitome of that. Gemar has been one of the better attackers on the team this season, according to Holbeck. But she’s doing that as a natural setter.

Wherever the ball gets set, anyone on the court for TDA has the ability to finish the play off.

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“We have options,” Holbeck said of her team’s offensive attack. “(The players) put the time in, they’ve put the hours in and now this is their reward where they get to have fun playing and trying different things. … It’s just fun.”

The co-op has never made the state tournament and one team in the two school districts' histories has made an appearance at the Class B state tournament, that being 1999 Tripp-Delmont. But Holbeck is focused on her team getting better with every opportunity.

“We’re trying to be that next-level volleyball team,” she said. “We’re working at it and we’re slowly getting there.”

Zech Lambert is a sports reporter for the Mitchell Republic. He graduated from Penn State University in May 2022 and began at the Mitchell Republic in July 2022. He can be reached at zlambert@mitchellrepublic.com or on Twitter @Zech_Lambert.
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