In the state’s largest class the top two seeds got eliminated in the state semis last season. Defending champion, O’Gorman, and top-seeded Washington were sent home by Harrisburg and Jefferson respectively. Harrisburg got a four set win to take home the title. The Tigers come back as a new team but possibly an improved team. This season there are zero seniors on the varsity team. That’s right, none. But Coach Ronette Costain isn’t lowering expectations.
"We have a brand new team every year. You got to find the dynamics. You graduate some and you rebuild and you restart."
A senior-less team doesn’t mean they’ll lack leadership.
"That's kind of what we're working to establish, like who needs to lead and does it always have to be the same people? And what I'm finding is with a very young team, no seniors on this squad, they're kind of a team effort. One person I'll speak to their part, what they're saying, the others are all contributing in the huddle and they're already doing that in summertime, a lot of time with the younger kids."
Harrisburg has several all-state candidates on this roster filled with underclassmen. Gabi Zachariasen is the team captain despite being a sophomore. She can overpower you with her swing and has gotten much more savvy as a sophomore this year. Karalynn Leach is an 5-9 middle but plays above the net. Freshman Bergen Stiff is another potent middle attacker. Maggie Meister was all-state as a sophomore last season, she is among the best defensive players in the state. This year Harrisburg adds an outstanding eighth grader in Josalyn Samuels. The 6-footer is not only one of the best for her age, she is already arguably the best setter in the state. Josalyn attended the Nebraska Huskers camp and was presented the award for best setter. Expectations are extremely high.
"This year our theme is earned not given," said Coach Costain. "We know we have a target on your back any time you come back as a state champ. That's just how it is. But there are some good teams and it's not just going to be a gift. It's if we if we get to where we want to be and be that state champ again, the girls will have earned it."
Washington had some movement on their roster but return an all-state setter in Macie Malchow and a great group of attackers. They should be at or near the top of the standings all season. They feature future Illinois libero Taryn Kirsch to set the defense and returning all-state setter Macie Malchow to set the offense. Their roster is loaded with talent but they have several new players so it may take some time to peak.
O’Gorman lost a couple of D1 players and a huge group of seniors. Cale Hecht has some work to do to rebuild but has some up and coming talent.
Jefferson made the most of their first trip to the state tournament making it to the championship game. Brandon Valley transfer Mya Hejl joins Cora Hokenstad, and setter Presly Pastian return to the Cavs. Emory Brosnahan is an outstanding junior hitter on the outside as well.
Lincoln has some big hitters with all-state outside hitter Jazmen Kutey and Linnea Nesheim back. They have a few new players to work in to give them a chance to contend.
Looking for some of the most improved teams?
Roosevelt regroups with Avery Goebel leading the way. Zoie Husman is a returning all-state talent but will miss the season due to injury. Watertown is solid with Emery Thury in the middle and all but two players back. Aberdeen Central has Grace Kuch who could be one of the most powerful players in the class. Stevens will be improved with Sydney Wathen at libero ,Isabell higgins back on the outside and Ava Mitchell in the middle.
Here are a few of the top players to watch in Class AA:
Tayrn Kirsch, Washington
Emory Brosnahan, Jefferson
Grace Kuch, Aberdeen Central
Jazmen Kutey, Lincoln
Macie Malchow, Washington
Maggie Meister, Harrisburg
Linnea Nesheim, Lincoln
Josalyn Samuels, Harrisburg
Kaelyn Snoozy, Washington
Emery Thury, Watertown
Gabi Zachriasen, Harrisburg
Cora Hokenstad, Jefferson
Mya Hejl, Jefferson
Presly Pastian, Jefferson
Sydney Wathen, Stevens
Cate Legel, Washington
Avery Goebel, Roosevelt
In Class A Sioux Falls Christian made quick work of the rest of the field, they lost just one set in the state tournament to become the six time reigning champions in the state.
This season Head Coach Darci Wassenaar reloads yet again. Taylor Byl is one of the top attackers in the state and Addisen Barber returns to set for the Chargers. It will be a true team effort for Sioux Falls Christian as they come into the season as the favorties.
Last season Wagner earned the top seed at state, they graduated a couple big hitters but have more than enough experience to contend again. Miller had an outstanding 33-4 mark last season but lost a key senior class, Aleah Schlecter will be a leader for this year’s team. Elkton-Lake Benton had a great season last year. Their top player returns in Tevan Erickson who was a double threat setting and attacking. Dakota Valley is always tough. This season Sophie Tuttle returns and Claire Munch is ready to dominate after a strong freshman season.. Belle Fourche has one of the best players in the state with Mataya Ward. Dell Rapids has some of the best talent in the state with future Illinois setter Sophi Randall and fab freshman Madelyn Henry on the outside not to mention several other athletic players all over the court. They could be the most improved team in the class.
Top Players to watch in Class A:
Mataya Ward, Belle Fourche
Addisen Barber, SF Christian
Taylor Byl, SF Chrstian
Tevan Erickson, Elkton-Lake Benton
Madelyn Henry, Dell Rapids
Natalie Heurertz, EPJ
Claire Munch, Dakota Valley
Audrey Nelson, Madison
Sophi Randall, Dell Rapids
Brietta Tims, SF Christian
Sophie Tuttle, Dakota Valley
Karley Vanderwerff, Platte-Geddes
Aleah Schlecter, Miller
In Class B the Warner Monarchs defeated Chester in the state finals. The same two teams come in as favorites this year. Their all-state setter Ava Nilsson is still recovering from a basketball injury and won't be back to start the season. However a strong senior class including Krya and Lauren Marcuson give them enough firepower to plow through. "It will make us a better team," coach kari Jung said of Ava's injury. "We'll love getting her back but we will have to step up in her absense.
Chester Area has a state championship-type roster. They are strong and experienced. Lily VanHal is an outstanding setter and has several targets including Jacy Wolf, Addison Bates, Emmerson Eppard and Emilie Bleeker. Emery Larson has proven to be one of the top defensive specialists in the class.
Last season Northwestern brought a very inexperienced squad into the season and they still made it to state. Several of their middle schoolers who got to play last year will benefit from their court time and they should once again be near the top. Ashley Haven, Payton Grandpre, Tara Blachford and Ella Boekelheide are just a few of the improved lineup this season.
Burke made another strong appearance at state and they’ll be tough again. Kailee Frank, Paige Bull and Emmie Hausmann all return to the court for the Cougars.
Top Players to Watch in Class B
Ava Nilsson, Warner
Addison Bates, Chester Area
Emmerson Eppard, Chester Area
Kailee Frank, Burke
Emmie Hausmann, Burke
Presley Knecht, Castlewood
Daniela Lee, Colman-Egan
Emery Larson, Chester Area
Kyra Marcuson, Warner
Lauren Marcuson, Warner
Addison Melius, Faulkton
TyAnn Mortenson, Faith
Katelyn Schroeder, Hitchcock-Tulare
Lily Van Hal, Chester Area
Oakley Weber, Bridgewater-Emery
Jacy Wolf, Chester Area