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SC/W embracing underdog role at state

WOONSOCKET -- Heading into its region championship game against Arlington, not many people expected the Sanborn Central/Woonsocket volleyball team to walk away victorious.

Sanborn Central/Woonsocket's Tesa Jensen (15) goes for a kill during the Blackhawk's Region 3B contest against Arlington on Nov. 10 in Forestburg. (Garrick Hodge/Republic)
Sanborn Central/Woonsocket's Tesa Jensen (15) goes for a kill during the Blackhawk's Region 3B contest against Arlington on Nov. 10 in Forestburg. (Garrick Hodge/Republic)

WOONSOCKET - Heading into its region championship game against Arlington, not many people expected the Sanborn Central/Woonsocket volleyball team to walk away victorious.

But they did, winning in four sets. Now that the Blackhawks are going to state for the first time in co-op history, the underdog role is a familiar feeling for SC/W.

The Blackhawks (18-10) are the No. 8 seed in the Class B state tournament, drawing No. 1 Chester Area in the first round of the tournament at noon in Sioux Falls. Knowing what it's like to be in the dark horse position helps going into the tournament, said senior middle hitter Tayla Weber.

"It pushed us more during practice definitely, and even more during the game," Weber said. "Going into the Arlington game, we knew people weren't expecting us to win. To get that victory made it even more great. Hopefully we can do the same thing at state."

Channeling that mentality into success at the state tournament will be no easy task against the Flyers, who stand at 27-2 and whose only in-state loss of the season came at the hands of Warner. The Blackhawks haven't played any of the other seven teams in the Class B tournament but that's of little worry to SC/W.

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"I think we're embracing that underdog role," junior middle hitter Myah Selland said. "We're not content with just making it to state, we want to turn some heads and do what we can while we're there. We're ready to compete."

SC/W head coach Rick Olsen said his team has been pretty loose in practice this week, knowing his team has nothing to lose entering the state tournament.

"There's really no pressure," Olsen said. "When you come in as the eighth seed, anything above that is overachieving, according to the ratings or whatever. But I have a lot of faith in our girls and think they're coming around at the right time. We're the eighth seed, but we have the attitude that we're going in there to try to win."

Against Chester Area, the Blackhawks will rely on Selland to play another big role. The 6-foot-2 hitter recorded 31 kills in the upset win against Arlington, and has 468 kills on the season.

But, it will take more than a dominant effort from Selland to prevail against the Flyers.

"She's our main go-to girl, no doubt," Olsen said. "She's our leader along with some of our other senior leaders, but everybody understands that this team has each other's back, and we have to be that way. We don't just have one player, it all works together to make us successful."

Other players that will be counted on include Weber-who has amounted 205 kills in 2015, senior setter Bailey Moody (576 assists, 39 aces and 288 digs in the regular season), junior outside hitter Maddie Vermeulen (100 kills and 251 digs in the regular season) and junior setter/hitter Kayla Olson (85 assists and 183 digs in the regular season) among others.

Meanwhile, senior McKenzy Peterson has racked up 258 digs and 26 aces, while freshman Tesa Jensen has 50 digs and 79 kills and sophomore Tristan Ziebart has 100 digs.

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Prior to the co-op, Woonsocket qualified for the 2007 Class B state tournament, while Sanborn Central and the towns that comprise the school district have never gone to the tournament.

Regardless of the outcome, Selland said the Blackhawks will relish representing their respective communities.

"It's definitely an exciting time around here," she said. "We've been able to do something no one else has been able to do in this co-op before. To be a part of something like that is really neat and we're all soaking up the moment."

Weber agreed with her teammate.

"This is what we've been shooting for since the beginning. It's the greatest feeling ever," she said. "I always hoped our senior class would be the one that got it done and made it to state for us."

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