The Brandon Valley volleyball team is off to a solid start this season, going 7-3 over their first 10 games. In the process, they’ve been hovering around the No. 5 and No. 6 mark in the Class AA seed points all season. The top 16 teams in Class AA qualify for the SoDak 16 in November, a position the Lynx have clearly put themselves in.
A win in the SoDak 16 would qualify them for the state tournament, and that’s a position the Lynx haven’t been in since 2015. Head coach Marette Grage said before the start of the season that a return to the state tournament was the goal, and after the impressive start, the Lynx seemed primed for a postseason run.
In order to make that run, Brandon Valley will certainly get a test over the next several weeks. The Lynx are in the midst of playing nine straight games on the road. That streak is the longest in the state, no matter the class size.
Brandon Valley was at Aberdeen Central and Harrisburg on Oct. 3 and 6. They go to Brookings and Yankton on Oct. 13 and 20, and then head to Rapid City for five matches against Douglas, Rapid City Central, Spearfish, Rapid City Stevens and Sturgis Brown for a two-day tournament Oct. 23-24.
Brandon Valley’s last home game was Oct. 1 vs. Pierre where they won in straight sets. The Lynx don’t return home until Oct. 27 when they host Watertown.
That’s a long time away from the Lynx-branded gymnasium in Brandon.
“Actually, I didn’t even know that,” Grage said when asked about the time away from home. “Going to Rapid City, I think of that as just one trip because you go out there for five matches.”
Not even realizing the length of time away from home is probably a good thing for the Lynx. As far as Grage is concerned, the Lynx are headed in the right direction and are eager for more court time. Brandon Valley plays 12 times in October, and only two are at home.
“I’m actually very excited about the month of October and where we’re at,” Grage said. “We’re progressing every week and getting better in our weaker areas and improving on our strengths.”
One area Grage said she focused on this season in Brandon Valley’s defensive play. It’s an area, she said, the Brandon Valley program has needed to improve on for years.
“We’ve improved in that area, and we’ll need to continue to improve,” she said. “If you can dig the ball up and keep it in play, it obviously helps. It’s a game of errors. Whoever makes less errors has a better chance of winning.”
One of Brandon Valley’s three losses so far this season was against Class A top-ranked ranked Sioux Falls Christian on Aug. 29. Although the Lynx lost in four sets, Grage said it was one of Brandon Valley’s better games. Playing opponents like SFC, Grage said, is a good gauge, and it also toughens up the Lynx for a stretch run.
“We had really long volleys with them and we did a great job with serve/receive so we were able to stay in our system,” she said. “That (match) made us a better team.”
The results of the current long road trip will no doubt help determine Brandon Valley’s seeding when it comes to the SoDak 16. The higher the seed, obviously, the better the shot at qualifying for the state tournament.
Should the Lynx get that far, they’ll have to eventually contend with Class AA top-ranked Sioux Falls O’Gorman. The Knights are unbeaten and haven’t been challenged all season. Against the Brandon Valley on Sept. 17, the Knights cruised to a 25-21, 25-10, 25-15 win.
“O’Gorman is very good,” Grage said. “We definitely hit the ball hard against them, but they did a good job of picking up our attacks. We need to be on our A game to take down O’Gorman, for sure.”
After the first 10 games, Brooklyn Grage leads the Lynx with 69 kills. Taylor Stemen has 67. Morgan Hunt has 17 blocks and Abby Finch leads Brandon Valley with 121 digs.