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Orioles compete at State Volleyball

For the first time since 1989, the Lennox High School volleyball team competed in the State A Tournament held this year at Rapid City on Thursday, Nov. 16, Friday, Nov. 17 and Saturday, Nov. 18. Despite a strong effort out West, the Orioles were unable to win a match and settled for eighth place among the stiff competition.

“The Lady O’s had a phenomenal season, regardless to the last weekend. They earned the right to say they were eighth in the Class A 2023 season. They made it to state for the first time in 34 years,” said LHS head coach Vanessa Gabel. “They worked hard, mentally and physically, to get to peak in the right time of the season. The last month of the regular season, they kept climbing and climbing. Through injury and fatigue they kept pushing.”

“They won the matches they needed to win and earned their bid to the state tournament. Would we have liked to have one more week of top play left in us? Of course. Would we trade that trip to Rapid City for it? Absolutely not,” continued Gabel.

The Orioles opened State with a match-up against top seeded Sioux Falls Christian on Nov. 16. Lennox went toe-to-toe with the Chargers in the opening set but dropped it 21-25, then dropped the second 19-25 and eventually the third 15-25 to lose the match 0-3.

“I was so impressed with the girls in the first round versus last six in-a-row state champions, SFC,” said Gabel. “The arena was massive and filled with hundreds of screaming fans. I knew the girls were nervous because even I was feeling my nerves. This was a really big deal and even bigger considering none of our athletes had been in this situation before while on the other hand, most of the SFC team had been there before.”

Sioux Falls Christian went on to take the State A title, defeating Rapid City Christian, 3-1, in the Championship match.

Lennox played a strong match against the Chargers.

“They worked hard and set themselves up with the opportunity to take a set or two,” said Gabel. “The points just didn’t fall where and when we needed them to.”

Against the Chargers, Dani Highum had nine kills and 12 digs. Ella Grengs finished with ten kills, 13 set assists, and three aces. Lilly Meyer had 15 set assists and one ace; Andie Peters had ten digs and Ryan Hanssen had six kills.

Following the loss, Lennox faced off against #4 seed Platte-Geddes on Nov. 17.

Lennox once again fought hard and early got the opening set but fell, 23-25. They dropped the second 14-25 and the third 23-25 to lose 0-3.

“The first set was really tight…set two we sort of had the wind taken out of our sail and lost handedly,” said Gabel. But she was proud of the team for coming back in the third set even though they fell short.

Dani Highum led the team with her offensive attack, having 18 kills and aided by Carli Kuyper’s seven kills. Kuyper also had two blocks. Meyer finished with 16 set assists and two aces. Grengs had 14 set assist and Ashlee Sweeter finished with 11 digs.

On Nov. 18 the team faced off against #6 seed Wagner. Once again, Lennox kept things close but ultimately lost 0-3 (20-25, 19-25, 18-25).

“Saturday’s match against Wagner was a tough one as the girls had really been putting it all on the line without seeing the success in the form of a win,” said Gabel. “That’s always a challenging aspect about going to a state tournament. All the best teams are there, even if you’re playing another team that hasn’t won a match yet like yourself, they are one of the top eight in the state. The ladies regressed a bit in regard to their milestones they had made this season as far as ‘we are one’. We didn’t put our best foot forward and it showed and Wagner made us pay for it.”

Despite the loss, the coaching staff is extremely proud of the team’s success this season. They were so impressed this season with team captain and senior, Dani Highum.

“She led the team by example with her physical abilities and emotional support of her teammates,” said Gabel.

Carli Kuyper, also a team captain and senior, equally impressed the coaches.

“She led with her dominance at the net and ‘no quit’ mentality, even after an injury that sidelined her for a month,” said Gabel.

“We’ve got a lot of returners for next year that leaves up optimistic for the 2024 season. Both setters, Ella and Lilly, are juniors, along with right side hitter, Ryan. Middle hitter, Addison and libero, Andie, are both sophomores. Outside hitter, Libby, has made her impact on our offense, as an 8th grader,” Gabel added. “We’ve got a pack of more underclassmen that I anticipate getting significant play time next year and know they’ll step right into their roles when earning the opportunity.”

Post-season awards were released this weekend. Highum was recognized as Class A All-State second team. She also received DAK XII All-Conference second team. Grengs earned DAK XII All-Conference third team and Kuyper DAK XII Conference Honorable Mention.


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