RAPID CITY – Approximately 350 miles from home, two rivals separated by a fifteen-minute drive met in the quarterfinals of the Class B state volleyball tournament.
Fourth-seeded Chester Area raced out to a 2-0 lead and looked poised to advance to the semifinals, but the fifth-seeded Hawks of Colman-Egan had other ideas, rallying to win 3-2 and advance.
The Flyers won set one, 25-23, and set two, 25-20, before the Hawks’ three straight set wins, 25-22, 26-24, and 15-12.
After trailing by a handful of points in the first set, Colman-Egan rallied to within a point at 20-19 before ultimately dropping the first set.
The second set saw the Hawks again trail early, but they would claw back to tie the match at 12.
Chester Area went on a run of their own, however, to open a 22-18 lead, then score the final three points of the set to win 25-20.
Hawks head coach Abigail Dockter said her team got out of alignment in the first two sets.
“We got stuck in too many rotations and had to play the catch-up game, or were up and let them catch up,” Dockter said. “But our girls are fighters. They’ve been through this before being down two sets. In the playoffs they’ve proven they don’t give up no matter what the score is.”
Set three is when the Hawks starting to get rolling, with a little early help from the Flyers.
Tied at four, Chester Area committed five straight hitting errors to give the Hawks a 9-4 lead, prompting a Flyers timeout.
After giving back a point of their own on a hitting error, Hailey Larson dropped in a kill to re-open a five-point lead for Colman-Egan at 10-5.
The Hawks would extend the lead to six a few points later at 19-14, but the Flyers would score five straight to knot the set at 19, then take a 22-20 lead.
Needing to quickly rally, the Hawks did just that as a net violation and a pair of hitting errors gave the lead right back to Colman-Egan, 23-22, and after a Daniela Lee ace and Mackenzie Hemmer block the Hawks were within a set, trailing 2-1.
The Hawks got off to another strong start in the fourth set, leading 8-4 after another Hemmer kill, but a see-saw set was tied at 20, 21, 23, then 24, before Hemmer scored with one of her 20 kills and the Hawks came up with an ace to win the fourth set, 26-24, forcing the winner-take-all fifth set.
As expected with the way the first four sets went, the fifth set was tight as the teams traded points and were tied near the midpoint, 6-6, before the Flyers scored four of the next five points to open a 10-7 lead.
Colman-Egan had one last rally of its own, however, as the Hawks ran off six straight points and led 13-10 and would go on to win the set, 15-12 and the match.
“Once we got the score tied at ten I told our girls it’s a whole new game, the first one to five points, so you don’t have any time to mess around,” Dockter said.
Hemmer led Colman-Egan with 20 kills, 18 digs, and six blocks (one solo, five assists), while Larson added 13 kills, 18 digs, and four block assists.
Dockter’s senior leaders in Hemmer and Larson were big contributors against Chester Area, fueled by motivation they’ve had since the last offseason when they often were overlooked with so much other talent in front of them on the Hawks’ roster, before those players graduated this past spring. They’re using that to their advantage this year.
“Graduating that many people last year a lot of people overlooked Mackenzie and Hailey and it hurt them just because they were a big part of our team last year,” Dockter said, “so they had this chip on their shoulder and a little pent-up revenge on their side.”
Lee had nine kills and a team-leading 25 digs as well as a pair of aces.
Colman-Egan registered 12 total blocks in the game.
Lanie Mousel had 19 set assists, while Ava Mousel added 14.
Jayda Kenyon and Breckyn Ewoldt each had 18 kills for Chester Area.
The Hawks will take on top-seeded Platte-Geddes in the semifinals. The Black Panthers also played a five-set match in their win over eighth-seeded Burke. The two teams met earlier this season at the Sanford Pentagon tournament where Platte-Geddes rallied after losing the first set to win 2-1 in the three-set tournament format.
“That was a battle, too,” Dockter remembered. “We were up big against them and it got away from us. I’m excited to see this matchup. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing in this tournament, it’s going to be a battle.”
First serve between the Hawks and Black Panthers is set for 6 p.m. MT.