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Chester tops Warner in instant classic, Flyers win ‘B’ title

Josh Jurgens
South Dakota Public Broadcasting

In a David versus Goliath matchup, Chester took down the proverbial giants in Class B volleyball, Warner, on Saturday in a five-set thriller to win the state championship.

Coming into the title match, Warner was undefeated at 39-0, and had incredibly only lost three sets all year. After the Monarchs took the opening set on Saturday night 25-20, it felt like Warner was going to once again spoil Chester’s hopes of a state championship. After all, last season the two teams met for the ‘B’ crown as well, which saw Warner win 3-1 over Chester.

The Flyers did win the state championship in 2015 over Warner, but as of late, the Monarchs have consistently held the upper hand amongst the duo.

“We just talk about how this game of volleyball works,” said Chester head coach Jean O’Hara. “It’s kind of a rollercoaster, and you’ve got to ride out those valley’s to get your way back up on top of the hill. As long as you don’t let a team like Warner go on two-three-point runs, we really had our focus.”

Chester bounced back to take not just set two but set three as well – 25-23 and 25-17. At this point, it felt like an upset was brewing. Warner powered back in set four, however, with a 25-18 win. This set it up for one final slugfest with everything on the line.

The fifth set went back and forth as both teams raced to hit the 15-point mark. After a couple bounces went their way, Chester held a 14-13 lead with a chance to win it. Senior Addison Bates rose to the occasion with the match closing kill to close out the fifth set 15-13.

“It felt so good,” Bates said. “The adrenaline was just rushing through me, and I was ready to go. We wanted it so bad, we pushed through. Such an adrenaline rush, it was great.”

“I’m just so super proud of my kids. I thought they stayed gritty, I thought they played with a lot of heart and a lot of resolve. That is a very very good volleyball team over there,” coach O’Hara stated. “Coach Jung runs a great program, and we just got a few balls to go our way in the last four, and that made all the difference.”

Chester has an incredibly strong volleyball program. This was their 11th straight year of making it to the state tournament. And despite only winning one state championship prior to this one, every year the Flyers are in the conversation as a top-3 program.

“I think when it comes down to it, you want to put yourself in position to play a team like Warner. Little things make a huge difference and so we tried to focus that we do little things right, because Warner does things right nearly all the time,” explained O’Hara. “We have tried to serve better, we’ve tried to hit harder, serve better, we’ve tried to block better, and hopefully that’s starting to pay off.”

Jacy Wolf led the Flyers in kills with 18. Emmerson Eppard also attributed 15 kills, while Addison Bates had 14. Lily VanHal recorded 39-assists in the match. Emery Larson, who also won the ‘B’ state cross-country title a month ago, led the defensive charge with 21 digs.

Addison Bates, Katelynn Huntimer, and Makaylyn Borecky are the three seniors from this year’s Flyers squad. Chester has three juniors, and a combination of eight sophomores and freshman on the team too. With a lot of youth on this year’s team, the Flyers will once again be a tough team going into 2024.

Saturday night’s championship match between Warner and Chester is one of the most exciting title matches in recent history – one that wont soon be forgotten.

Nate Wek is currently the sports content producer and sports and rec beat reporter for South Dakota Public Broadcasting. He is a graduate of South Dakota State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism Broadcasting and a minor in Leadership. From 2010-2013 Nate was the Director of Gameday Media for the Sioux Falls Storm (Indoor Football League) football team. He also spent 2012 and 2013 as the News and Sports Director of KSDJ Radio in Brookings, SD. Nate, his wife Sarah, and two kids Braxan and Jordy, live in Canton, SD.