Tanager volleyball completes season with 10-13 record By Parker Knox
Sportswriter Going into last week's District 8A semifinal match against Elk Point-Jefferson, there seemed to be little chance Vermillion could spring a huge upset and advance to the district championship match. The Tanagers had been defeated twice by the Huskies, both times in 3-0 sweeps, during the regular season, the more recent loss coming just a week earlier. The chances seemed even more remote after EP-J dominated the first game of the semifinal, 25-14, and squeaked out a 25-22 win in the second. But with their season coming to the brink, the Tanagers reached down deep, and the result was that they showed their opponents and themselves a thing or two about competition when it means the most. As it turned out, EP-J survived Vermillion's courageous 26-24 win in the third game and an equally tense 27-25 victory in the fourth. By the time the decisive fifth game came around, the Tanagers had given just about all they had, and they fell, 15-7, to send EP-J into the finals. There they would knock off top-seeded Dakota Valley and advance to this week's regional championship match. "It was a heartbreaker," said coach Lenni Billberg after the district semifinal loss. "We worked so hard, yet couldnot get that finishing touch. I am, however, very proud of the kids. They did everything we had worked on this week, transitioning from practice to the game." Billberg said one athlete who stood out was Sierra Allen with seven kills, 10 digs and two service aces. "She had her best hitting and blocking match of the year," Billberg noted. "There literally were times in the match when EP-J could not get the ball to our side." Kayla Gale contributed 14 digs and 12 kills, including a few punishing smashes that changed the whole outlook of the match. Despite dislocating her hand the day before the match, Justine Sorensen came to play "with her heart on her sleeve," Billberg said. "With limited mobility she was still immensely effective." Sorensen had three kills, two digs and two blocked shots. Sara Kjose with 18 digs had her best defensive night and continued with the same beautiful setting the Tanagers have seen from her all season with 23 assists. "Her growth as a player really helped bring us to the next level," Billberg commented. Bri Brinkmann, a solid defender and passer all season, was always a sure bet for at least 25 digs. In this match she had 29. "Another of our bright stars was Jacey Wipf," Billberg observed. "An athlete who saw limited playing time all year, she came in and served clutch serve after clutch serve, and also, through her game awareness, she saved us a yellow card violation simply with her presence of mind." Billberg said two other seniors who stood out were Kelsey Osborne and Dana Hannahs. "They were the true bench leaders with positive cheers and chants throughout the tightly fought match." Jenny Bye had five kills and 13 digs while Ashley Ouellette recorded four kills, two aces and five digs. Vermillion completed the season with a 10-13 record.