Comets sweep Miller in Class A semifinals

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RAPID CITY — The Rapid City Christian Lady Comets used a quick-set offense, a red-hot outside hitter and a stellar blocking scheme to end title aspirations of the Miller Rustlers Friday night, 3-0, in a semifinal matchup at the Class A State Volleyball Tournament.

Set scores for the Lady Comets, who improve to 35-5, were 25-18, 25-17 and 25-14. Miller will take a record of 29-7 into tonight’s third-place match against Dell Rapids.

It will be an all-private school final, as the No. 2 seeded Lady Comets will face top seed Sioux Falls Christian tonight for all the marbles in Class A.

The Lady Comets came out of the gate on fire, going on a 3-0 run early to break a 4-4 tie, with 6-foot senior Ana Egge doing most of the damage. Miller hung tough to RCC, but a 9-0 run, keyed by a front line defense put up by the Lady Comets that the Rustlers were unable to penetrate.

Maddie Alsteil had three block kills in the run that saw the Lady Comets come out with a 17-7 lead and while Miller got back to within six points late, they were unable to get any closer, as RCC took the first set, 25-18.

Miller got off to a much better start in set two, as kills by Aleah Schlechter and Paige Werdel were sandwiched around an ace from Jolie Palmer to stake the Rustlers to a quick 5-3 lead.

Egge connected for the Lady Comets, igniting a quick 4-0 run, which turned into an 11-1 rally, with Egge providing the offense, (a kill and three aces) while Lydia Williams and Maddie Alstiel building a front defensive wall that saw nearly every Rustler kill attempt bounce right back at them.

Miller used some RCC errors to cut back into the lead, carving the margin to 20-16, but back-to-back kills from Egge righted the Lady Comet ship, Alsteiel caught the line on a tip and Williams closed the second set with a huge kill down the middle of the Rustler defense.

With their backs against the wall, the Rustlers needed to establish a little momentum to open the third set.

But quick kills by Williams and Egge, combined with three straight Miller hitting errors staked the Lady Comets out to a 6-1 lead.

Schlechter got a kill and followed it up with an ace, but RCC countered with a kill from Kendall Glassbrenner. Shaylee Anderberg notched a kill for Miller, however Alsteil and Williams combined to form a defensive wall for the Lady Comets and after two more kills from Egge, RCC led a 13-7 advantage.

Miller dug in, but the deficit was just too much to overcome, and the Lady Comets punched their tickets to their first state title game, with the 25-14 win, on an ace from Glassbrenner.

Egge ended the match with 15 kills and three aces, while Williams and Alsteil each added seven kills in the match. Sophomore setter Faith King handed out 29 assists in the match.

Schlechter led the Rustlers with seven kills and an ace, while Werdel added five kills and Anderberg chalked up four.

Thursday game (game finished after Plainsman went to print)

RAPID CITY — After building a 2-0 lead in the match, third-seeded Miller needed a 15-12 win in the fifth set to secure a 3-2 victory against sixth-seeded Wagner in the opening round of the Class A State Volleyball Tournament on Thursday in Summit Arena at the Monument.

The first set was close throughout - neither team saw anything larger than a three-point advantage - as Miller’s combination of Aleah Schlecter, Shaylee Anderberg and Paige Werdel consistently defeated the blocking attempts of the much taller Wagner front line.

Must past the midway point, a kill by Werdel and an ace from Schlecter pushed the Rustlers to a 16-13 lead, prompting a timeout by Wagner coach Stacey Knebel.

Whatever she shared with the Red Raiders worked, as a quick 4-0 run by Wagner put them into a 17-16 lead and forcing Miller coach Linda DeBoer to pause the game. The Rustlers regrouped, but a kill from Ashlyn Koupal and a Miller error staked Wagner to a 20-17 lead and prompted DeBoer’s final first set timeout.

Slowly, Miller began to claw its way back, due in part to several errors by Wagner, but the Red Raiders still led 23-20 on a kill from Aubrey Medricky. Again, the Rustlers regrouped, and keyed by an ace from Jolie Palmer, a kill by Werdel and a pair of kills from Schlecter, Miller closed the set on a 5-0 run to take the 25-23 win.

The second set was a virtual carbon copy of the first, although Miller held a lead for nearly the entire set, as a kill from Paige Werdel, a block kill from Gracen Werdel and an ace from Journey Palmer staked the Rustlers to a 9-7 lead. The teams traded points until back-to-back hitting errors by Miller gave Wagner an 18-17 lead.

The Red Raiders returned the favor with a pair of errors, then the Rustlers went on a tear. Journey Palmer nailed three service aces and Anderberg clocked a kill for good measure and Miller won going away, 25-18, ending the match on an 8-0 run.

Everything good that took place in the first two sets for the Rustlers came undone from the jump in set three, as Wagner jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead. Kills by Shona Kocer and Kya Kjeldgaard pushed the Red Raider lead to 10-3 and the Rustlers were never able to recover, falling 25-11.

Wagner jumped out again in the fourth set, as Kocer, Kjeldgaard and Ravyn Medricky pushed them to an early 6-2 lead. But the Rustlers rallied behind Gracen Werdel and Paige Werdel. The teams again traded points through the early portion of the set, and when Schlechter got a kill on a swing down the line, the Rustlers knotted the score at 12-12.

Miller stayed close, holding a late lead of 21-20, but back-to-back hitting errors by the Rustlers and Koupal kill capped a Red Raider rally and they closed the set on consecutive kills from Kjeldgaard and Ravyn Medricky.

The final set was a back-and-forth battle until Miller took control late was able to avoid the upset bid by the Red Raiders.

Paige Werdel finished with 20 kills to lead the Rustlers, who improved to 29-6. Anderberg had 16 kills, while Schlechter recorded nine kills.

Heather Resel amassed 43 assists for Miller. Journey Palmer recorded six of the 13 aces in the match for the Rustlers, while Schlechter and Jolie Palmer each had two aces.

Jolie Palmer also finished with a team-high 31 digs for Miller, while Anderberg had 14 digs.

Ashlyn Koupal led Wagner with 21 kills, while Kjeldgaard had 14 kills. Macy Koupal finished with 41 assists and 23 digs, while Madi Knebel had a team-high 26 digs.