Tanager volleyball season ends with tourney losses during District 8A action March 26 at Dakota Vall

Tanager volleyball season ends with tourney losses during District 8A action March 26 at Dakota Valley by Jim Prosser You could expect intense competition when three of the top seven rated teams in the state are involved in a double-elimination tournament to determine the regional candidate.

The weather-affected District 8A tourney was held on Monday, March 26, at Dakota Valley to bring together Alcester-Hudson, Elk Point-Jefferson and Vermillion for a winner-take-all meet.

The Tanagers won the first match, defeating the Elk Point-Jefferson Huskies 6-15, 16-14, 15-8; while the Alcester-Hudson Cubs were beating the Dakota Valley Panthers in the first round of matches.

In match #1, leaders for VHS were: Elly Kjose � 19 assists, 6 service points, 2 aces and 11 digs; Ashley Bjorkman � eight kills, 10 service points, 4 aces and three digs; Leslie Larson � eight blocks (five solos), eight kills, 8 service points, 5 aces and five digs; Carey Engstrom � 4 service points (all aces), two digs, four kills and two blocks; and Jaclyn Powell � 8 service points, 1 ace, five kills and nine digs. Tessa Tuetken was credited with three assists, three kills, two digs, 1 ace and one block.

"We had a slow start, but were poised, while EP-J came out 'fired up' in game one," said Coach Kathy Reckling. "Leslie and Ashley were strong at the service line in the second game and Jaclyn added a strong service and attack, especially in game three."

Match #2 was a two-game affair against Alcester-Hudson and stats were not so numerable as the Tanagers fell 9-15, 8-15. Only four defensive blocks were recorded and Kjose scored the most assists with 15, the most service points with 5, and the most digs with nine. Powell had 2 service points, six digs, and six kills. Larson had six kills, 1 ace and two digs. Bjorkman had seven kills, 2 service points and seven digs. Engstrom had 5 service points and four digs, and Tuetken was credited with two assists, two kills, 2 service points and one dig.

"Ten service errors made victory out of reach," Coach Reckling said. "We beat ourselves with unforced errors and lack of continuity. Larson, Bjorkman, Powell and Kjose ran a balanced (attack) offense."

Match #3 paired Vermillion with the winner from the second round, Elk Point-Jefferson. The semi-final match was a two-game sweep for the Tanagers 15-12, 15-6. Engstrom, with 16 service points, 5 aces, five digs, five kills and three blocks (two solos) was the leader of the flock. Powell had 2 service points, one assist, three digs and two kills. Bjorkman had four kills and 6 service points, 2 aces, two blocks and one dig. Kjose recorded 14 assists, 4 service points, 2 aces, seven digs, and one kill.

Larson led the defense with six kills and seven blocks (five solos). Tuetken had two digs and two kills.

"Great defense at the net (12 blocks)," Coach Reckling said. "Every starter recorded at least one kill and one service point. We are still plagued by service errors but there is more strategy and creativity demonstrated by the players."

This brought the team to the championship final against Alcester-Hudson who had eliminated Elk Point-Jefferson and Dakota Valley in earlier rounds. The three-game "screamer" left the Tanagers out of the competition, losing 15-12, 12-15 and 8-15.

The leader in assists was again Kjose with 21. She also recorded 11 service points, 4 aces, three kills and 17 digs. Bjorkman had 3 service points, 14 digs, one block and 12 kills. Powell had seven digs and 4 service points, plus nine kills. Larson led the blockers with five (four solos). She also scored three kills and five digs.

Engstrom was busy scoring 8 service points, 1 ace, eight digs, five kills, one assist and three solo blocks. Joining in the fray was Tuetken with two solo blocks, three assists, one kill, 8 service points, 1 ace, and five digs.

"The first game win alleviated some of our pressure but we still struggled at the service line," Coach Reckling said. "Our focus was not there to start the second game. We failed to score a point until the sixth rotation. Our hitters were not creative enough. The power was there, but not placement. Both teams did well defensively.

"Alcester-Hudson is a team of 'survivors'," she continued. "They keep the ball alive and force the opposition to err. It's hard to keep the enthusiasm at 10 p.m."

Writer's note: After 10 games and five hours, most anyone might lose some excitement. The loss ended the season for the Tanagers, whose final record was 19 wins, 11 losses, and two ties. It also was the completion of the high school volleyball careers of seniors Kjose, Larson, Tressa Olson, and Powell.

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