Wolsey-Wessington nips Northwestern in opener

COURTESY OF SDPB Above: Wolsey-Wessington’s Mallory Miller blocks the ball at the net during an opening round match against Northwestern on Thursday in the Class B State Volleyball Tournament at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls. Below: Wolsey-Wessington’s Lainey Uttecht digs the ball during a match against Northwestern in the opening round of the Class B State Volleyball Tournament on Thursday at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls.

SIOUX FALLS — In their first state volleyball tournament, the Wolsey-Wessington Lady Warbirds outlasted the Northwestern Wildcats 25-19, 25-20, 14-25, 21-25, and 19-17 in the first round of the Class B State Volleyball Tournament Thursday at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls.

The Lady Warbirds came out firing, playing very clean volleyball. The Lady 'Birds initially jumped out to a quick 5-2 lead on strong net defense that forced multiple Wildcat hitting errors.

The strong hitting of Northwestern senior Ella Haven brought the Wildcats back even at 8-8. The two teams played for a few points, but then Leah Williams stepped back to serve, and the Wolsey-Wessington system was in order.

A long run put the Lady Warbirds up 17-12 and drew a timeout from Northwestern coach Nora Groft.

Williams got an ace out of the timeout and Mya Boomsma recorded a kill to push the W-W lead to 19-12.

Haven recorded a pair of kills and a pair of Lady Warbird hitting errors made it 21-17 before Boomsma followed her fourth kill of the set with a service ace to make it 23-17.

Kailynn Dorris went up and slammed down a block to end the first set with a 25-19 Lady Warbird victory and a 1-0 match lead.

The two teams battled evenly early on in the second set, before a Williams kill made it 6-5 in favor of Northwestern.

At that point, the Wildcats went on a 4-0 run to extend the lead to 10-5, drawing a timeout from Wolsey-Wessington head coach Lindy Uttecht.

The Lady Warbirds chipped away bit by bit, with a pair of Boomsma kills and a pair of kills from Mallory Miller in the run helping along the way. When Northwestern's Ashley Haven sent a hit long, the score was tied again at 14-14, and the Wildcats called for timeout.

The two teams played tight on the chase to 20, tying six times until the Warbirds went on a 3-0 run to make it 22-19 and draw the second Wildcat timeout of the set.

Ashley Haven got a block/kill on Boomsma to bring it to 22-20, but the Warbirds got the final three points, capped off by a pair of kills from Williams to win the set 25-20, taking a 2-0 match lead.

After playing two very clean sets, the Lady Warbirds showed a bit of crack on the bright lights of the state tourney stage while Northwestern showed the poise of a program that has been to 22 tournaments and appeared in the title game 18 times, winning 12 championships.

The Lady Warbirds opened with Williams serving, and she recorded multiple aces as her squad went up 4-0 early. The Wildcats came storming back on the force of three Ella Haven kills in a row. A kill from Brooklinn Halvorson made it 5-4 Wildcats.

The two teams played tight to 9-9, when the errors begin to show up for the Lady Warbirds. Six straight points for the Wildcats were due to W-W hitting errors. After a Warbird timeout and a kill for Emree White, the Lady 'Birds served long, giving the Wildcats seven straight points on Warbird errors.

Ella Haven then went on a run to push the Wildcats over the edge, and Wolsey-Wessington couldn't get any closer, falling in the third set 25-14.

The fourth set became a highlight of excellent defense on both sides, with Williams really showing well for the Lady Warbirds defensively and Ella Boekelheide showing out for Northwestern.

The two teams played even to 5-5, when the Wildcats used a pair of Warbird hitting errors, a kill from Ella Haven and an ace from Payton Grandpre to quickly jump out to 9-5.

The Lady ‘Birds would climb back, getting within one at 12-11 after a pair of kills from Boomsma, but then Northwestern went on a 4-0 run to push the lead out to 16-11, drawing a timeout from Uttecht.

The Lady Warbirds were their own enemy out of the timeout, as a 5-2 run out of the timeout contained only points scored by W-W, as the Wildcats scored on a service error and a hitting error.

The Lady Warbirds continued to push, getting within 21-19 to draw a timeout from Northwestern.

However, Wolsey-Wessington’s hitters struggled to locate coming out of the timeout, with three hitting errors giving the Wildcats the final points they needed to close out the fourth set 25-21 and tie the match at two sets apiece.

The Lady Warbirds and Northwestern had played two times previously, with Wolsey-Wessington winning in 2021 in five sets. The Wildcats won in five sets in August in the second match for both teams, so this match going five sets made sense.

Neither team really gave the other team a large lead throughout the fifth set. The Lady Warbirds started off hot and were up 5-2 after a Boomsma kill. That would prove to be the largest lead that either team would have in the set.

After taking an 8-6 lead on a Dorris kill, the Lady Warbirds watched Northwestern go on a 4-0 run to take a 10-8 lead. After a timeout, the Warbirds responded with a 4-2 run of their own to tie the set at 12 and the race to 15 was on.

Only, neither team was going to be ready to be done at 15. With each team having match point three times in the fifth set, the Lady Warbirds finally closed it out with a 19-17 victory to claim the fifth set victory and the first round victory.

Wolsey-Wessington moves to 29-4 with the win behind 20 kills and 19 digs from Boomsma. Miller and Williams each had 11 kills.

Williams led the defense with 29 digs and had four service aces. Miller had three blocks.

Northwestern falls to 27-9 despite a huge game from Ella Haven with 30 kills, three solo blocks and six block assists.

Ashley Haven added 17 kills for the Wildcats while Halvorson set up the Wildcat offense with 43 assists. Boekelheide had 24 digs to lead the Northwestern defense.

The Lady Warbirds will battle top-seeded Warner today at 5 p.m.

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