HURON — The Huron Tiger volleyball team qualified for its 11th straight Class “AA” State Tournament Thursday night, on the strength of a dominating 3-0 (25-22 , 25-8 , 25-13 ) win over the Sturgis Brown Scoopers, in a SoDak16 playoff game, at Huron Arena.
The win pushes the Tigers to a record of 18-6 on the season, while Sturgis ends its 2019 campaign with a mark of 11-20. Huron will enter next week’s “AA” tournament as the No. 3 seed, and will face sixth-seeded Sioux Falls Lincoln in the 4:30 p.m. MT game.
“It was a bit odd for us,” said Huron coach Shelly Buddenhagen after the trophy presentation. “We’re not normally the favorite. We are much more accustomed to the underdog role. But give Sturgis credit - they had nothing to lose and they came out and played loose in the first set, while we were not.”
Huron got off to a sluggish start in the first set, as the Scoopers remained with a point until a short Tiger run, keyed by kills from Mikena Moore and Libby Rounds, along with an ace off the Huron bench by Reese Rozell, put the Tigers up 10-7. The lead remained in the two to three-point range until the Scoopers countered with a short run of their own to make cut the lead to one, at 14-13.
Huron never lost the lead in the set, but likewise were never able to shake Sturgis. The Scoopers took advantage of a pair of Tiger errors to knot the score at 18-all, prompting a timeout from Buddenhagen.
“In the locker room,” she said, “we talked about staying with what we know and continuing to compete. We actually thought they would stay close and that the break would come around 18 points.”
Out of the timeout, Sturgis got an ace from Kylie Shaw and Huron hit a ball out of bounds to go down by two points.
Huron setter Tenley Buddenhagen stopped the run with a crafty tip kill, the Brooke Schiltz went back-to-back on thundering kills before Moore added another kill, on a cross court swing that hit the tape. And just like that it was 23-20, Huron, and bringing on Sturgis’ second timeout in three possessions.
Out of that timeout, Tenley Buddenhagen served up an ace, and although the Scoopers rallied for a pair of points, Rounds pounded home a kill - one of 10 she would have on the night - to close the first set, 25-22.
The bugs that bothered the Huron attack in the first set disappeared in the second.
The Tigers sprinted to a 7-1 lead, with Rounds notching three kills, Schiltz adding one and Buddenhagen chalking up another ace.
“We settled down and served much better in the second set,” coach Buddenhagen said. “We talked between the sets that we didn’t want to panic. We’ve been here before and we just needed to get back to doing what we do.”
The set continued, as did the offensive onslaught from the Tigers. The lead swelled to 14 points late in the set, at 18-4, as everyone from Huron got involved. Rounds, Schiltz and Moore led the scorers in the set, while Alaina Dale went back-to-back-to-back at the service line as the Tigers never lifted the accelerator en route to the 25-8 pummeling.
In the set, Huron committed five service errors and had one hitting error, as Sturgis scored only two points on offensive plays.
Huron jumped out on top of the third set and looked to run away and complete the sweep quickly, but the Scoopers refused to yield. After leading 8-3 early, with kills from three different players and a pair of Havyn Heinz aces, Huron watched Sturgis rally with five straight points to tie the game.
The Tigers settled themselves, however. They never surrendered the lead and proceeded to go on a 9-3 rally that included a pair of Emily Dale kills and was capped by a power shot from Moore. Huron pushed the lead to 10 points, at 23-13, before Schiltz and Rounds capped the shutout with big kills.
“I thought that after we got our passing game going better, Tenley got in a good rhythm with both Brooke and Libby tonight. Both of them did a good job of playing within themselves and taking advantage of the opportunities they got.”
For the night, Rounds’ 10 kills led the Tigers, who also got seven kills from both Schiltz and Moore. Emily Dale had five kills. Tenley Buddenhagen ended with four aces, Mattie Huber came off the bench and stroked three aces and both Alaina Dale and Heinz added a pair of aces.
Heinz added to her career digs record with a dozen more defensive stops and Buddenhagen passed out 27 kills on the night, as the offense kicked into high gear in the second and third sets.
Huron faced Lincoln in the Tigers’ season opening tournament back in August, defeating the Patriots 2-1. Lincoln moved into the state tournament with a 3-1 win over the Rapid City Central Cobblers and will carry a 14-9 record into next week’s state tournament.
Advance tickets for the South Dakota Volleyball Tournaments, which includes Class “B”, Class “A” and “AA” will be available at the Rushmore Civic Center ticket office at the tournament.
Sturgis 22 8 13
Huron 25 25 25