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Orioles head to State for first time in 34 years

This past Tuesday night, Nov. 7 the Lennox High School volleyball team made the drive up I-29 to Watertown to take on the Groton Area Tigers in the SoDak 16 match-up with the winner advancing to the State A Tournament to be held in Rapid City this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

Lennox entered as the #14 seed and Groton came in seeded #3.

The first set was tight as both squads were fighting for each point. The set was back and forth and tied up until 14-14, when Lennox began to pull ahead a point or two at a time. Ryan Hanssen put away a kill, followed up by another by Dani Highum to force a Tiger time out. Libby Kranz continued to put some tough serves into play. Highum got another kill, followed up by a solo block. A couple of aces from the Tigers, got them back to within two points, 22-20. Another kill by Highum got the serve back and into Lilly Meyer’s hands. A kill by Highum and hitting error by the Tigers gave Lennox set one, 25-20.

The second set once again had Lennox coming out strong. A couple of back to back aces by Lilly Meyer got Lennox’s lead to 10-3. At 15-5, Mia Hanisch went back to serve. She had a series of tough serves that forced Groton out of their offense and led the Orioles to a 19-5 advantage. Ultimately, the set was claimed by Lennox, 25-11, when Highum got a kill to seal the deal.

“The third set was the tightest of the night,” said LHS head coach Vanessa Gabel. “Lots of back and forth with great defense on both sides leading to some really long rallies.”

Both squads took turns leading by a point or two. The Orioles had the lead with game point, 24-22, but weren’t able to finish out the win.

“As things got tense with the ladies, they supported one another through hitting errors but ultimately the set was tied at 24-24,” said Gabel. “Both teams were really struggling with hitting errors as the set went back and forth.” After a long rally at 25-26, the Tigers were able to earn the set point and take the third set.

In the fourth set, Lennox took a controlling lead at the get go and were up 10-2 when the Tigers started to make their own push. Groton forced an Oriole time out at 16-9 after a three-point run. After another Lennox time out at 23-17, Ella Grengs stepped up and put away a set from Lilly Meyer to get Lennox to match point. Hanisch went back to serve but an Oriole hitting error gave the serve back to Groton. Highum received the serve with a great pass to Meyer, who set up Carli Kuyper, who had a strong hit that resulted in a shanked dig by Groton and the match win for Lennox, giving them the set and the State berth.

This marks the first time since 1989 that Lennox will be represented at the State Volleyball Tournament.

The 2023 State Tournament will be held at the Summit Arena at the Monument in Rapid City. Lennox enters as the #8 seed and will take on the #1 seed Sioux Falls Christian on Thursday, Nov. 16 at 11 a.m. MT. The winner will play at 5 p.m. MT on Friday, Nov. 17 with the loser playing on Friday, Nov. 17 at 11 a.m. The Championship match will be played on Saturday, Nov. 18 at 6:45 p.m. MT. The Consolation Championship match will be played on Saturday, Nov. 18 at 12:45 p.m. MT. All classes will play on their designated court at the same time. Class A will play on Court 3.

Lennox had a strong showing in the Soak 16 match-up, specifically out-blocking Groton, with 11 blocks to their 2. The Orioles also earned 13 aces to the Tigers’ six.

“I was so impressed with the team’s ability to not get riled when the momentum shifted to Groton’s favor,” said Gabel. “The senior leadership from Highum, Kuyper and Ashlee Sweeter kept everyone focused and fearless and allowed our hitters to keep swinging hard and servers serving tough.”

Highum finished the night with 15 kills, 23 digs, two aces and a team high serve receive rating of 2.46. Grengs added six kills, 21 set assists, and had 13 digs. Meyer finished with 18 set assists and had eight aces. Hanssen had nine kills. Addison Martz and Kuyper both had four blocks in the game and Andie Peters finished with 15 digs and has a serve receive rating of 2.10.


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