ETHAN-After a 21-4 campaign in 2017, the Ethan High School volleyball team entered this season ranked No. 4 in Class B by the South Dakota Prep Media poll.
Heading into the home stretch of the regular season, the Rustlers have held true on those predictions, winning their first 12 matches of the season and currently sitting at 20-3 overall, having yet to lose a true best-of-five match.
Ethan head coach Stephanie Plastow is now in her third season at the helm and players are beginning to trust in the program designed.
"The girls put in a lot of work in the offseason," Plastow said. "They've worked really hard, improved our defense quite a bit from last year and we don't have just one offensive threat, we have a number of offensive threats."
The Rustlers boast one of the top front lines in Class B with the trio of Jada Plastow, Karly Gustafson and Cameryn Logan. Plastow is the leader of the group and a do-it-all player that leads the team with 138 kills, to go along with 98 digs and 16 blocks. Gustafson has proved to be a nightmare in the middle of the net, totaling 91 kills, 15 blocks and 22 aces.
The engine that drives the Ethan offense, though, is senior setter Jessica Bartscher, who has 332 assists this season and just 10 errors, while also recording her 1,000th career assist earlier in the year.
"Our serve-receive and passing has really improved from last year, which is able to get it to our setter and then she's able to put up a good ball for those hitters to put away," Stephanie Plastow said. "My hitters have really worked hard. Most of my team was in the weight room all summer, four or five days a week-working on their strength, working on their vertical and it's really shown this year."
While Ethan cruised through its regular season schedule a year ago, the Rustlers did not make it to the state tournament. This season the goal is to not only make it to state, but to make an impact when they get there.
All three of Ethan's losses this season have come in tournaments, including dropping a match to Class B No. 3 Chester Area after winning the first set in the Bridgewater-Emery Tournament and then falling to two 20-win teams from Iowa in the Sanford Pentagon Tournament in Sioux Falls.
Part of the process in preparing to make a run for the state tournament has been beefing up the schedule this year. Not only did Ethan participate in the Pentagon tournament, but it is also set to battle Class B No. 2 Warner on Saturday in the Chester Challenge. Ethan also added Class A No. 2 Miller to the schedule for Oct. 19.
"We wanted to challenge ourselves more," Plastow said. "So we tried to add to some tournaments where we could see what we're made of, see how we compete and things like that."