HURON — For the third time in as many games the Huron Tigers faced a higher-ranked opponent. After downing both Sioux Falls O’Gorman and Aberdeen Central, the hometown Tigers vaulted into the No. 3 spot in the most recent poll. Huron hosted the Harrisburg Tigers, who came in 6-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state on Tuesday night at Huron Arena.
The match lived up to all expectations. In the end, Harrisburg came out on top, 3-1, but saw itself forced into overtime in three of the four sets. Scores for the visitors were 24-26, 26-24, 25-22 and 27-25.
“We didn’t come out on top here tonight and I know some of the girls are disappointed,” said Huron coach Shelly Buddenhagen. “But really, I’m encouraged. We went toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the state and ended up falling by a total of five points. That’s encouraging to me.”
Huron took an early lead behind strong starts from Hollee Niehus, Jayda Shillingstad and Kayla Schimke, jumping to a 7-4 lead. Harrisburg came back to tie the game, then go on a 8-1 run of its own to forge ahead 12-8.
Huron again scratched its way back, forging a 14-14 tie, only to see Harrisburg score three of the next four points for an 18-15 lead. A Tenley Buddenhagen kill stopped the rally, but Harrisburg continued to maintain a lead. Huron stayed close, and when Harrisburg hit a serve into the net, had a lead again.
Meghan Krull had a kill for Harrisburg and a hitting error put the visiting Tigers on the precipice of the win.
But Harrisburg again hit it into the net on the serve, Schimke collected another kill and a Harrisburg hitting error gave the first set to the home team, 26-24.
If the first set was a nail-biter, the second probably cost a couple of knuckles.
Harrisburg had early two-point leads, but a Schimke kill and an ace from Shillingstad knotted the score at 5-all. From that point through the rest of the match, neither team had more than a one-point lead until the very end when Harrisburg emerged with a 26-24 win that evened the match at a set apiece.
“We preach ‘passing and serving,’ ‘serving and passing,’” coach Buddenhagen said. “Tonight we just had too many serving errors. And we have to figure out our blocking. We just gotta block better. We have to be able to make adjustments on the fly and didn’t get it done tonight.”
Huron controlled the third set in the early going as Niehus and Shillingstad staked the home team to a quick 3-0 lead. Harrisburg came back to tie the score, only to see Huron sprint away behind a kill by Melissa Berg and three from Schimke to make it 9-6.
Huron controlled the momentum for the middle of the game and held a 14-9 cushion before Harrisburg began to climb back in the game.
Carlie Fikse, Harrisburg’s 6-foot, 4-inch middle hitter woke up with a pair of kills and a block kill, before Rachel Nelson stroked three straight aces for the visitors, knotting the score at 15.
The game remained close to the end, but Madison Wassink ended the set with two straight kills for Harrisburg, 25-22.
The fourth and final set was another nail biter, as neither team held more than a four-point lead at any point in the set. Huron found itself behind 18-14, but clawed back as Tenley Buddenhagen served an ace and Niehus notched a kill. A hitting error on Harrisburg tied the score at 22 and extra volleyball loomed for the third time in the match.
Fikse put Harrisburg ahead, but kills by Schimke and Shillingstad put Huron back on top. A hitting error by the home team was countered by a Niehus kill, but kills by Krull and Avery Kirkey put the game at match point, and a final kill attempt by Huron sailed long, giving the match to the visitors.
Niehus led Huron with 21 kills, while Schimke notched 15 and Shillingstad had eight.
Harrisburg was led by Wassink’s 21 kills while Fikse had 19 and Krull added eight. Nelson and Ashlee Cain each had three aces for the visiting Tigers.
Huron’s scheduled match in Pierre on Thursday has been postponed, so the Tigers are off until next Tuesday, when they travel to Yankton.
Huron falls to 6-4, while Harrisburg improves to 7-0 on the season.
In preliminary action, Harrisburg’s JV team took a 2-0 decision (25-20, 25-12), while Huron took the sophomore game 2-1, with set scores of 27-25, 22-25, 15-11.
Huron’s Isabell Ford passes the ball during a match against Harrisburg on Tuesday at Huron Arena.
Next, Huron’s Jayda Shillingstad goes airborne to make a volley during a match against Harrisburg on Tuesday.
And next, Huron’s Hollee Niehus spikes the ball during a match against Harrisburg on Tuesday.
Photos by Mike Carroll of the Plainsman