Miller rallies for win in state opener


SIOUX FALLS — The second-seeded Miller Rustlers dug themselves out of a two-sets to none, somewhat self-inflicted deficit to power through and survive with a five-set win over the No. 7 Platte/Geddes Black Panthers in the opening round of the Class “A” State volleyball tournament at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center.

The Rustlers, who dropped the first two sets by scores of 26-24 and 27-25, owned an earlier straight-set win over the Black Panthers, who were carried to the brink of an upset by the 1-2 punch of Karly VanDerWerff and Cadence Van Zee, a pair of power-swinging 5-foot, 10-inch juniors.

And while the duo certainly took advantage of every opportunity for Platte/Geddes, Miller provided more than half of the Black Panther points in the first two sets (12 in the first; 15 in the second) on hitting errors, service errors and net violations. In each, Miller took a lead, built upon it, then saw misfires or VanDerWerff/VanZee shrink the margin.

It wasn’t really until the third set that the sputtering Rustler offense began to hum as it has most of the season.

Powered by aces from setter Tyra Gates and Shaylee Anderberg, Miller built and early 7-2 cushion in the set. Six-foot senior Ally Mullany connected on a cross-court kill and Journey Palmer collected back-to-back aces to push the Rustler lead to 11-2. A timeout by the Black Panthers didn’t do much to stem the bleeding, as Mullaney and fellow seniors Jaden Werdel and Abigail Blake never allowed the lead to fall below three points. Mullaney, Blake and Werdel got the final three kills of the set for the 25-17 Miller win.

With new life, the Rustlers got two kills from Mullaney and one from Werdel to stake a quick 3-1 lead.
VanDerWerff single-handedly kept the Black Panthers in the set in the early going, until a kill from Van Zee and a block by VanZee and Regan Hoffman tied the score a 6-6.

A block-kill from Blake and a kill from senior Tricia Lammers righted the ship for Miller and although the Black Panthers were able to tie the score on two more occasions in the set, a sneaky point from Gates, four kills for Mullaney, an ace from Jolie Palmer and a kill from Werdel capped a run that saw the Rustlers take an 18-12 lead.

Out of a Platte/Geddes timeout, VanZee and VanDerWerff each notched kills as the Black Panthers cut the lead to thee points, but they would get no closer down the stretch, as first Aleah Schlecter and then Mullaney found the line with kills to close the set for Miller, 25-20.

After digging out of a 2-0 hole to tie the match, the fifth and deciding set was somewhat anti-climactic.

The mishaps that plagued the Rustlers in the opening sets settled in on the Platte/Geddes side of the net, as the Black Panthers gave Miller nine of its 15 points in the final set, on team errors.

Miller led 10-8, then got a kill from Mullaney and an ace from Gates, before seeing Platte/Geddes commit two errors to put the Rustlers at match point before, fittingly, Mullaney close the match with a big swing.

Mullaney was credited with 27 kills in the match, while Blake had nine and Werdel chipped in eight.

Gates had 43 set assists, 20 digs and three aces, while Jolie Palmer also had three aces and led the defense with 29 digs.

VanDerWerff led the Black Panthers with 22 kills, while VanZee added 19.

Avery DeVries had 37 set assists and six Platte/Geddes players had double digit digs, led by VanZee’s 25.

Miller will move into tonight’s championship semifinals, where they will face Elkton-Lake Benton, who defeated Belle Fourche 3-0. That match is scheduled to begin at 6:45 p.m.

Belle Fourche will face Platte-Geddes in the consolation semifinals at 1:15 p.m.

Earlier in the day, top seeded Wagner was upset by eight-seed Elk Point-Jefferson, by a score of 3-1, before Sioux Falls Christian took out Dakota Valley 3-0. Wagner will face Dakota Valley in the consolation round at 11:30 a.m.,  while Elk Point-Jefferson will take on Sioux Falls Christian in a championship semifinal match at 5 p.m.

Score by sets
Platte/Geddes     26 27 17 20 8
Miller        24 25 25 25 15   

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