Rangers finish sixth at state

Jason Ferguson
In a season that saw them endure playing for three different coaches, player defections and plenty of distractions, the Hill City High School volleyball team put all the noise aside to not only qualify for last weekend’s Class A State Volleyball Tournament but bring home a sixth place trophy in the process.
Saturday the Rangers played Elkton-Lake Benton for the consolation championship in the tournament, falling three games to one.
The Rangers lost the first game 25-21, and fell behind 4-0 in that game before taking a 5-4 lead after a Cassidy Moody block. The game was back-and-forth for the remainder—as was the match, for that matter—and Karsen Kirsch tied the game at 10-10 with an ace before the Lady Elks ripped off the next four points and maintained a lead the rest of the game.
It was the Rangers that got off to a hot start in the second game, taking leads of 6-2 and 10-3, with another Kirsch kill putting the Rangers up 12-5.
The Lady Elks started to chip away at the lead, and had cut the Hill City lead to 20-17 before a Whitney Edwards spike stopped the Ranger bleeding. That was followed by three straight kills by Maggie Taylor to put the Rangers within game point. Marie Peckosh put the game away for the Rangers moments later with a kill of her own.
The Rangers took the early lead of the third game following another Kirsch kill and an Edwards ace, but Elkton tied the game and eventually took a 14-12 lead before two Ranger points and a pair of Peckosh aces gave Hill City another lead at 16-15.
The turning point of the entire match may have come after the Rangers took an 18-15 lead, as the Lady Elks rattled off an 8-0 run, fueled by multiple blocks and scramble plays on defense that kept the ball alive when the Rangers seemingly had driven the ball into the ground.
“We knew defensively they bring balls back into play we should have had down,” head coach Renae Schneider said. “They were just really good defensively.”
Elkton went on to win the third game 25-21, and took a 4-0 lead in the fourth and final game before the Rangers scored five straight points to take the lead, including a Taylor block and an Abby Siemonsma ace.
The teams stayed within three points of each other for the remainder of the match, and it looked like the Rangers might send the match to a fifth game after a Taylor kill was followed by a pair of Hill City points that put the Rangers up 22-19.
Elkton scored the next three points, however, prompting a Ranger timeout. After the timeout another Lady Elk block knotted the score at 23-23 before an Edwards tip put Hill City up a point.
That would be the final point the Rangers would score, however, as the Lady Elks scored the next three points to take a 26-24 game win, sealing the match.
“When they went on their runs, we were out of system,” Schneider said. “When our setter is setting behind the 10-foot line, it’s hard. It gives their blockers more time to get there.”
Schneider said the team’s serving was good in the match, as was the blocking for the most part.
“They followed the game plan. We adjusted in game on the right side. They did a good job of adjusting,” she said. “There are just some bad habits that are hard to break in a couple of weeks.”
The Rangers started the tournament by losing a 3-1 match to Wagner 18-25, 21-25, 25-11 and 26-24. That sent the team into the consolation round, where they defeated Parkston 25-14, 15-25, 25-14, 25-12.
Schneider said while coaching a team wasn’t what she expected to be doing this time of year, she felt it was the right thing to do for the players, who endured the loss of their former coach, Lindsy Wathen, to resignation, along with two teammates when she resigned.
“I still call them by the wrong name,” she said with a laugh, referencing the Ranger players she had to get to know in a hurry.
The Rangers lose Peckosh, Edwards, Siemonsma and Moody to graduation, but return a core of Anna Dean, Taylor  and Kirsch, which Schneider said means no matter who is coaching the Rangers next year they will inherit some strong talent.
“When you bring back a 6-2 middle who can block like that (Taylor)? Yah, they are going to be OK,” she said. “As long as they keep working on their fundamentals, next year should be very promising as well.”

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