Custer advances in Region play

By Carrie Moore

Leah Zacher bumps the ball during a play against the Spearfish Spartans

The Custer volleyball team’s perfect season remains intact after the second round of Region 8A play. The Wildcats had a bye in the first round, pairing them with the Spearfish Spartans, who defeated Hill City last week.

The game was a rematch from 2015’s region game, where the Spartans defeated the Wildcats in five sets —  with the final match ending in a close 15-12 — ousting them from the chance at a state title. This year, the Wildcats vowed to change that.

“I think there is more pressure (at this point), which turns up the nerves,” said coach Renae Schneider. “The girls know that while they may be 32-0, if they have a hiccup it’s all done.”

The first half of the game was reminiscent of the 2015 region game: close scores, high stakes and high emotions.

The first two sets were both back-and-forth games, with Custer and Spearfish splitting the two.

In the first set, Spearfish edged out Custer by a few points, but a kill and tip from Jordan Menken and strong serving from Skylar Dekker tied up the score. A few errors on Custer once again allowed Spearfish to take a slight lead, but the Wildcats responded with strong passing, with a hit from Marlee Schneider giving Custer a point advantage, 23-22.

Spearfish called two time outs in the span of a couple minutes, the first with the score at 23-22 and the the second at 24-23. The set ended with a kill from Lisi Baker, 25-23.

The second set was much like the first, with Custer and Spearfish going point-for-point. A handful of Spearfish errors allowed Custer to take a slight lead, making it seem like the Wildcats would take another win. But, some crucial errors allowed Spearfish to tie up the score 20-20.

The game, once again, went in a back-and-forth manner, with the Spartans edging out the Wildcats, 25-22.

“I thought we were uptight in the first two sets. Even through we were aggressive, we were trying to play so that we didn’t have any mistakes,” Schneider said. “Before the third set, I told the girls to go out and have fun, because when we’re having fun, we talk. And when we talk, our play elevates and good things happen.”

Because of that, the second half of the match was much different than the first, with Custer laying it all out.

The third set started in Custer’s favor with a Spearfish serving error, followed by an ace from Schneider. Spearfish was able to nab a couple points of its own, but another ace from Schneider and one Morgan Parys, as well as a kill from Dekker, helped grow the score. Spearfish’s second timeout was called when Custer was up 21-14. Custer took the set a few points later, 25-17.

The Wildcats dominated the forth set, despite Spearfish quickly putting up two points. Custer went on a six-point run before the Eagles were able to score another point. Custer maintained that six-point lead throughout most of the set, thanks to a bevy of blocks and tips, as well as another ace from Schneider.

Custer took the fourth and final set, 25-16.

Throughout the course of the game, Schneider had five aces while Dekker and Morgan Parys both had three, Ashlee Kritenbrink had two and Menken one. Custer also had a strong offense on the court against Spearfish, with Marlee Schneider racking up 44 assists, 12 digs and one solo block and three block assists. Leah Zacher had 19 digs while Renee Kirk had nine. Kritenbrink and Dekker both had three digs and two block, as well as five kills. Parys added seven kills and 23 digs while Menken racked up 23 kills and 13 digs.

Senior Lisi Baker had a perfect game, which Schneider said made the difference in the team’s win. Baker was 12 of 12 serving, 22 of 22 hitting with nine kills and had two solo blocks, four block assists and seven digs.

The final game of the Region tournament will be Thursday, Nov. 10, where the second seeded Custer Wildcats will face off against 15th seeded Sioux Valley Cossacks. The game will be held at Stanley County (Ft. Pierre), beginning at 6:30 p.m. central time.

In order to win the match, Schneider said the hitters will need to be at their best, attacking wise.

“Our strength is our offense, so if we come out aggressive and attack, we will take a lot of pressure off of our back row,” she said.

The winner of the game will join seven other teams at the state “A” tournament in Watertown, Nov. 17-19.

Custer       25 22 25 25

Spearfish   23 25 17 16

Marlee Schneider: 18/20 serving with 5 aces, 15/17 hitting with 2 kills, 111/114 setting with 44 assists, 1 solo block and 3 block assists, 12 digs; Leah Zacher: 1/3 hitting with 1 kill, 20/22 receiving with 19 digs; Renee Kirk: 1/1 hitting, 16/16 receiving with 9 digs; Lisi Baker:12/12 serving, 22/22 hitting with 9 kills, 2 solo blocks and 4 block assists, 7 digs; Ashlee Kritenbrink: 14/15 serving with 2 aces, 13/18 hitting with 5 kills, 2 block assist and 3 digs; Skylar Dekker: 18/19 serving with 3 aces, 12/15 hitting with 5 kills, 4/4 setting with 2 assists, 2/2 receiving, 2 block assists and 3 digs; Jordan Menken: 8/9 serving with 1 ace, 42/53 hitting with 23 kills, 5/5 setting with 1 assist, 7/9 receiving with 13 digs, 1 solo block. ; Morgan Parys: 18/20 serving with 3 aces, 18/20 hitting with 7 kills, 1/1 setting, 19/22 receiving with 23 digs, 1 block assist.