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Wagner outlasts Elk Point-Jefferson in five-set showdown, advances to Class A tourney

The Red Raiders crawl back from a two-set deficit to stun the Huskies and advance to the state tournament.

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Wagner's Shalayne Nagel spikes the ball over Elk Point-Jefferson's Bentlee Kollbaum (7) and Josie Curry (11) during a Class A SoDak 16 volleyball match Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021 at Irene-Wakonda High School. (Branden Hull / Republic)
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IRENE -- The Wagner Red Raiders climbed back from a two-set deficit in dramatic fashion to beat the Elk Point-Jefferson Huskies on Tuesday night at Irene-Wakonda High School and advance to the Class A state tournament for the first time since 2013.

For the second time this season, Wagner found itself in a fifth set, but this time the Red Raiders came out on the winning side of the match. Set scores were 20-25, 24-26, 25-16, 25-18 and 15-10.

“This team wasn’t going to give up and you could see it in their eyes at the start of the third set that they’re not going to be done,” Wagner head coach Stacey Knebel said. “This team has battled through so much this year and they just wanted to come back and pull through. They came together and did the little things that we had been working on all year long.”

Wagner (26-7) started off each of the first three sets with a five point advantage, but relinquished the lead in the first two. In the second set, Wagner had a 15-7 lead looking to even the score at 1-1, but Elk Point-Jefferson (18-11) stormed back and managed to secure the second set 26-24. The Red Raiders, who have now won 14 of their last 16 matches, had to dig deep and Knebel said the team had to start playing together.

“We had to change our focus, mentally,” Knebel said. “We couldn’t stop swinging. We had to swing the entire time, our coverage was amazing, we ran through every ball and our serving was key, especially in sets four and five.”

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After the adjustments and getting off to a 6 to 1 start at the beginning of the third set, Wagner extended that lead to 13-5 and ended the set winning convincingly 25-16. The Red Raiders carried that momentum into the fourth set, ultimately winning 25-18 and forcing a fifth set that was devastating to the Huskies.

“They started playing super scrappy,” Elk Point-Jefferson head coach Erin Ellinger said. “They started having really great passes, chemistry and they just weren’t making mistakes while we were making errors.”

The fifth set began with both teams trading points until Wagner created some cushion, taking a 9-6 lead. They’d go on to close the Huskies out 15-10 in the fifth set.

Emma Yost had 20 kills and 23 digs in the win for Wagner, with teammate Shalayne Nagel posting 13 kills and 22 digs. Nagel and Shona Kocer had five blocks while Kya Kjeldgaard had four blocks and Avari Bruguier added 16 kills. Macy Koupal had 50 assists along with three ace serves while Madi Knebel had a team-high 28 digs.

For Elk Point-Jefferson, Natalie Heuertz had 14 kills and Josie Curry had 12 kills. Alyssa Chytka had a match-high 48 digs along with a match-high five ace serves, while Sophia Giorgio had 46 assists.

Wagner, which will be seeded fourth at the state tournament, will face No. 5 Hill City in the Class A state quarterfinals at 1:45 p.m. at Summit Arena in Rapid City.

Related Topics: VOLLEYBALLPREP SPORTSWAGNER
Branden is a sports reporter that graduated from Purdue University Northwest with a bachelor's degree in communications and a focus in journalism. He joined the Mitchell Republic in June 2021 and covers prep and collegiate athletics. He was also the lead on the Mitchell Republic Full-Court Press, providing a weekly web-exclusive look at high school basketball throughout all of South Dakota. Branden can be reached at bhull@mitchellrepublic.com and found on Twitter at @bhullreports.
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