PIERRE — The Huron Tiger volleyball team overcame an error-filled, sluggish first set, to post a comeback 3-1 win over the Pierre T.F. Riggs Governors in the regular season finale for both teams, Thursday night at Riggs High School.
“Pierre plays what I call ‘smash-mouth’ volleyball,” said Huron coach Shelly Buddenhagen after the match. “They came out swinging hard tonight and their bigs are very strong.”
Neither team looked to be functioning on all cylinders in the first set. Pierre got to 25 points first, but 12 of those points came off Tiger errors. Not to be outdone, Pierre offered up 13 errors that turned into Huron points.
Things flowed more freely in the second set for the Tigers, as Mikena Moore stroked three kills and Libby Rounds got one, as Huron sprinted to a 5-1 lead. Pierre didn’t let the Tigers get too much daylight in the score, hanging around as the lead fluctuated from four to six points, until back-to-back kills from Josi Stevens, who ended the night with 12 for the Governors, carved the margin to three points at 12-9.
The teams traded points until Pierre knotted the score at 17-17 all, but the Tigers rallied and while the Govs managed to get it tied, Huron never gave them a lead.
Alaina Dale scored on back-to-back swings to set the tone for the end game and another from Dale pushed the lead to three a 21-18. A Rounds block-kill put the Tiger lead at 24-21 and out of a timeout, Pierre hit the next kill long to even the match at one set each.
The third set began like the second one for the Tigers, as Rounds and Brooke Schiltz sandwiched kills around a Tenley Buddenhagen ace to take a 5-1 lead. But this time, instead of the Governors rallying, Huron stepped on the accelerator.
Rounds got a kill on a perfectly placed tip, Emily Dale got a kill and Schiltz made it three-for-three for Huron, as she worked the quick-set offense with Tenley Buddenhagen to perfection for an 8-2 and forcing a Pierre time out.
The Governors came out of the timeout and got one point back on a block-kill but then failed to find the floor on four consecutive points and when the smoke cleared Huron held a 15-6 lead.
Down the stretch, every Tiger got in the scorebook. Rounds and Emily Dale each got a pair of kills. Havyn Heinz stroked an ace serve and Schiltz fired another kill down the heart of the Pierre defense as Huron closed the set with a 25-12 win.
Pierre came out rejuvenated in the fourth game, as the team rallied around its seniors who were playing their last home game. The Govs led early and stayed close through the middle of the game, trailing 9-8 after a Huron hitting error.
But Rounds got a block on Stevens, Alaina Dale got kills on back-to-back points and Moore found the floor on two straight possessions as Huron raced to a 16-8 lead. Emily Dale notched kills down the stretch for Huron and big sister Alaina Dale closed the match with a kills, as the Tigers celebrated a 25-15 win.
“The kids knew how important this match was and how badly we needed the win,” coach Buddenhagen noted. “There was a slim chance that if we had lost, we could have ended up facing Pierre again in playoffs. They are going to be a tough match for whomever they face. We’re more of a finesse team and they brought the power early tonight. But we got our middles going in the third and fourth set when we got our passing game working better. We were preaching patience tonight and they stuck with it until it began to click.”
Huron, which closes the regular season with a record of 17-6, got 14 kills from Emily Dale and 12 from Rounds, while both Schiltz and Moore had eight kills and Alaina Dale added seven. Once again, as has been the Tigers’ calling card this season, setter Tenley Buddenhagen spread the wealth around, which makes Huron difficult to defend.
Next up for Huron is a SoDak 16 game Thursday night at Huron Arena. Their likely opponent will be Sturgis, but with a handful of games taking place yet Saturday night, matchups could change.
Pierre, which ends the regular season with a mark of 8-12, will be on the road for the SoDak 16 round. The winners of the eight SoDak 16 games, the matchups of which are determined by seeding points earned throughout the season, will move on to the Class “AA” State volleyball tournament in Rapid City, Nov. 21-23.
Score by set
Huron 23 25 25 25
Pierre 25 21 12 15