Killdeer rally falls short in 5-set loss to New England


Killdeer middle blocker Bridgette Reiss blocks an attack by a New England player during a match on Sept. 7 in New England. The Tigers, however, held on to score a 12-25, 25-21, 25-14, 21-25, 15-12 victory over Reiss and her teammates. (Photo by Bryan Gallegos)

NEW ENGLAND – The Killdeer Cowboys may not have left the gymnasium here with a “W,” but head coach Allison Steffan gave her team an “A.”

New England held off the Cowboys with a late run in the final set to secure a riviting 3-2 victory on Sept. 8. The Tigers won the regional match 12-25, 25-21, 25-14, 21-25 and 15-12.

Though disappointed in the loss, Steffan was happy to see the way her team kept battling and took a step in a positive direction.

“We came close to a really competitive team. We’re getting closer. Next time we’ll get over that hump,” Steffan said. “We kept talking, kept fighting. We made them earn it.”

The Tigers made a few more big plays down the stretch in the fifth set.

With the match on the line and the score knotted at 11-11 in the fifth set, three Killdeer errors opened the door for the Tigers. Killdeer dropped to 0-2 in region play and 1-3 overall.

“We’re going to learn from this experience and move ahead,” Steffan said.

They were scheduled to host Bowman County on Thursday night.

“The girls are having fun. And it’s fun, watching them have fun,” Staffan said. “They’re keeping their energy up and showing good team chemistry.”

The Cowboys opened the match in convincing fashion, winning the first set 25-xx. But New England responded with the eye of the Tiger, winning the next two sets 25-xx and 25-xx.

However, Killdeer found a spark in the fourth set and rallied from the brink of disaster after New England appeared on the verge to wrapping the match after. The Tigers, playing in front of an enthusiastic home crowd, opened a 17-14 lead, but Killdeer answered with a 6-0 run that was powered by some laser serves from Steena Larsen.

“We emphasize consisten serving, and that’s what Steena did,” Steffan said.

But New England went on a 3-0 run of their own, cutting the gap to 21-20, forcing Steffan to call a time out, to disrupt the Tigers’ momentum.

It worked. After both teams traded scores, Killdeer’s Bridgette Reiss hammered a spike the front row and Taycee Butts delivered the set winner from the back row that culminated a 3-0 run for the victory.

In the finale, New England jumped out to a 5-point lead on three occasions, the last being at 8-3 when Hailee Kuske dinked a shot into an open area in Killdeer’s defense.

After another momentum-stopping time out by Steffan, the Cowboys went on a 5-1 run, which cut the gap to 9-8. During the run, Larsen served up an ace, Sydney Anderson delivered a thunderous spike.

After trading points, the Tigers won a long rally in which both teams made great saves, that made the score 11-9.

With the crowd at it feet and at its loudest, Killdeer muffled that enthusiasm by attacking and forcing two New England errors to tie the score 11-11.

But three crucial Killdeer errors and a spike down the line by Kuske gave the Tigers the victory.

Despite the loss, the Cowboys had some pretty impressive individual statistics.

Larsen dished out 17 assists while Gabi Flaget added 10 to the lead the way.

Four players had double-digit efforts in digs. Elissa Steffan led the way with 20, followed by Chenneth Morlock and Taycee Butts with 18 each, and Flaget had 11.

Sydner Anderson led the team with six blocks and Bridgette Reis followed with four.

Larson also led the team in aces, serving four.

Butts was the leader for the Cowboys in kills. The senior recorded eight kills, followed by a half-dozen from both Reiss and  Anderson, while Morlock had four.

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