The Milbank Area Lady Bulldogs wrapped up their regular season with a heartbreaking 3-2 loss to the Groton Tigers Monday, October 23, on the road. The locals will take a 10-14 season record into the Region 1A tournament, which begins Tuesday, October 31.
Milbank Area started out of solid with a 18-7 lead in the first set. Groton Area came back slowly and evened the score up at 22-22. Molly Rick and Makayla Johnson belted out two kills to slip ahead at 24-22. The battle continued with the score even again at 24-24 and 25-25. The Tigers then committed a hitting error to give Milbank Area the 26-25 advantage. Jaecy Engebretson sealed the first set win at 27-25 with a kill. “The first set started out way too easy,” stated Lady Bulldog head coach Nancy Hoeke. “We had to play outstanding defense. Molly did a good job defending Groton’s Gia Gengerke by digging up some hard balls.”
The locals coasted along without much opposition again in the second set. The Lady Bulldogs led 16-12 following an ace by Engebretson, and surged ahead to win 25-16.
The third and fourth sets were just the opposite of the first two. Milbank Area fell behind at 12-17 midway through the third set and could not overcome the deficit and lost 20-25. The Lady Bulldogs trailed 9-14 halfway in the fourth set. They pulled to within four points at 15-19, but could not come up with the win and fell 17-25. “In those two sets we played flat and couldn’t get any runs going,” explained Coach Hoeke. “Serving errors plagued us.”
The fifth and final set was an exciting matchup. Milbank Area fell behind early at 1-5, but came back with a block by Gabbi Cummins and a Groton error to pull to within two points at 3-5. Two errors by the Lady Bulldogs again dropped them behind at 3-7. A slight rally moved the score to 5-10 when Coach Hoeke took a timeout to talk about things. “I told the girls during that time out, ‘This is so fun! You are doing great! It doesn’t get any better than this! This is what being a good team is about.’” The Lady Bulldogs then responded with a four-point run to cut the deficit to 9-10. Unfortunately, Milbank Area could not hold on and fell 12-15 to lose the match at 3-2.
“Even though we lost the match, we proved to ourselves we can compete with the #1 seed in our region,” expressed Coach Hoeke. “This ‘winning thing’ takes a whole lot of desire and determination. The mental aspect of the game will make or break you. The harder the game, the more fun you have to believe you are having and the more you have to tell yourself ‘it doesn’t get any better than this.’”
Rick led the Lady Bulldog attack with 20 kills on 65-72 hitting, 12-14 serving, 36 digs and one block. Engebretson tallied 13 kills on 71-79 hitting, four aces on 14-14 serving, 10 assists on 42-42 setting and 13 digs. Johnson followed with six kills on 20-26 hitting, one ace on 12-15 serving and 10 digs while Cummins added five kills on 28-32 hitting, two aces on 16-18 serving, two assists on 18-18 setting, 24 digs and one block.
Also contributing for Milbank Area were Maty Lightfield, 32 assists on 130-130 setting, four aces on 13-14 serving and 17 digs; Katie Wollschlager, one ace on 7-9 serving and 13 digs; Katie Vander Wal, 2-2 serving, and Tonya Meyer, 10 digs.
Milbank Area will host their first round game at the Milbank Armory on Tuesday, October 31. Watch The Valley Express for the final pairings.
Pictured is senior Molly Rick.