HURON — The Huron Tigers moved to 16-6 on the season, riding a wave of emotion in the third set to post a 3-0 come-from-behind win over the Brandon Valley Lynx in the final regular season game for the Tigers.
Huron is assured of a home SoDak 16 game, as they came in at the No. 3 spot in seeding points in Class AA, with no real chance to improve. Brandon Valley, on the other hand, came in at the No. 10 spot, within shouting distance of the eighth-seed that will get the final home game in next week’s state tournament play-in game.
So, Brandon had everything to play for. But it was Huron who came out on fire.
The Tigers raced to a 7-3 lead in the first set as four players registered kills in the early going. Mikena Moore, who missed the Huron win over Mitchell last week due to injury got a kill mid-set, Brooke Schiltz got a block kill and Moore soared for a dunk on an overpass for a 13-6 Huron lead and when senior Havyn Heinz connected on four consecutive aces late in the match, the Tigers were able to cruise to the 25-12 win.
The Lynx started better in the second set, matching points with Huron until an Emily Dale kill put Huron up 7-6. Heaven Gainey came off the bench for an ace for Huron and after Libby Rounds and Moore bookended a Tenley Buddenhagen ace, Huron was up 13-8.
Brandon stayed close, but a pair of late kills from Moore and two more from Emily Dale helped Huron pull away for the 25-18 win.
Then between the second and third set, a surprise ceremony recognized Heinz for her 3,000th dig. Heinz, who has been the starting libero for coach Shelley Buddenhagen since she was an eighth grader, continues to put the HHS dig record further and further out of reach with each successive game. It was an emotional time for the entire team.
After the match, coach Buddenhagen was still somewhat emotional.
“Havyn has been such an integral part of our volleyball success since we put her in there as an eighth-grader,” coach Buddenhagen said. “There was a concern that she wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure as an eighth-grader, but then Havyn was not your normal eighth-grader. She is the such an important part of this program.”
The emotion of Heinz’s ceremony may have affected the Tigers, as they came out somewhat flat in the third set. Brandon Valley, however, came out on fire, racing to a 10-1 lead and lead 14-3 when coach Buddenhagen called a timeout.
“We told them to just relax, we’ve been here before and we know what we need to do,” she said.
It worked to some extent, as the Tigers rallied. A kill each from Emily Dale and Alaina Dale made it 15-7 Lynx, but Brandon responded with back-to-back points and prompting another Huron timeout, at 17-9.
“We kind of told the girls to just get back to what we do,” coach Buddenhagen said. “It was a pretty big deficit and we told them to look at it as extra live practice time. But these girls don’t ever give up.”
Moore went back-to-back with kills to cut the margin to five points. A pair of Huron errors gave the points back to Brandon Valley and it was 20-14 Lynx after a Brandon service error.
Then the sputtering Tigers caught fire.
Moore got two kills, Tenley Buddenhagen had back-to-back aces and a Rounds kill cut the margin to two. Brandon hit a ball out and Moore knotted the score with another kill.
Moore converted again and Schiltz gave Huron a two-point lead, at 23-21, only to see Brandon rally and tie the score. But Moore found the corner and Rounds put the final point right in the heart of the Lynx defense for the 25-23 win.
“Our big girls did a great job,” coach Buddenhagen said. “They went toe-to-toe with those bigger Brandon Valley girls and got a lot of tips and blocks tonight. Out hitters were on early and our passing game continues to improve.
For the match, Moore and Rounds each ended with 11 kills, Emily Dale had nine and Alaina Dale had five. Heinz had four aces and 19 more digs, while Tenley Buddenhagen had four aces and handed out 34 assists.
Prior to the game, Heinz and Alaina Dale were recognized on Senior Night, in their final home regular season game. After the game, coach Buddenhagen credited her seniors for their leadership of this year’s team.
“You are only as good as your senior leaders,” she said. “Alaina and Havyn are two of the biggest reasons we’ve had a successful season so far. They are such great team leaders and it shows on the court in every match.
Huron will close the regular season Thursday night in Pierre, before hosting a SoDak 16 playoff game on Nov. 14. If the season ended today, Huron would host Sturgis in that game, for a berth in the Class AA State Tournament.