The power shift in Class AA volleyball to the Eastern South Dakota Conference in 2015 was reflected by the makeup of the All-State honor squads as nominated and voted on by the South Dakota Volleyball Coaches Association.
Six of the seven first-team selections hailed from the ESD, led by Aberdeen Central’s Brianna Kusler, who helped lead the Golden Eagles to the state championship and added the title of Class AA Miss Volleyball, as well.
Joining Kusler on the honor squad are Alex Anderson of Sioux Falls O’Gorman, Sarah Carr of Huron, Macy Denzer of Watertown, Hanna Jellema of Brandon Valley, Samantha Slaughter of Harrisburg and Sara Tvedt of Brookings.
The second team’s lineup included Becky Frick of Yankton, Rylie Kooima of Sioux Falls Roosevelt, Becca Koehn and Taylor Thorson of Brandon Valley, Rachel Nelson and Avery Thorson of Harrisburg and Anezka Szabo of Sioux Falls Lincoln.
Brianna Kusler, OH, Aberdeen Central
Kusler has already committed to join Curt Frederickson’s Northern State basketball team, but she went out with a bang to end her volleyball career.
The 5-10 senior finished with 298 kills and 234 digs, to go along with 29 blocks (nine solo and 20 assists), and added seven set assists. The all-tournament selection added 28 kills, 44 digs, nine block assists, four solo blocks, four aces and two set assists as the Eagles didn’t drop a set in their state tournament run.
“Brianna is one of the best players that I have coached in 24 years,” said Central head coach Dennis Northrup. “She can do anything that she wants on the volleyball court – her stats prove that she can play volleyball.
“Her other resume is what is impressive. She has many hours of volunteer work, church activities, Student Senate, National Honor Society, and everything else.”
Alex Anderson, OH, Sioux Falls O’Gorman
The 5-8 senior helped lead the Lady Knights to a third-place finish at the 2015 State Tournament. Along the way, she totaled 344 kills, 37 solo blocks, 78 block assist, 187 digs and 28 service aces. Anderson added 36 kills, 30 digs, eight service aces and a pair of block assists in the state tournament to earn all-tournament honors.
“Alex is a two-year starter and has been on the varsity team since she was a freshman,” said O’Gorman head coach Julie Kolbeck. “An outside hitter with an amazing vertical, she has the ability to hit most balls out of system and is a very disciplined volleyball player dedicated to her craft.
“She has aspirations to play at the collegiate level with no decisions made at this point.”
Sarah Carr, OH, Huron
The 5-11 senior, who has committed to play basketball at Dakota Wesleyan University, helped lead the Tigers to a AA State Tournament berth where they finished eighth.
She had 256 kills, 190 digs, 42 service aces, 27 blocks (two solo) and 10 set assists during the regular season before adding 45 kills, 43 digs, seven assists, four aces and four block assists during the state tournament to earn all-tournament accolades.
“Sarah has been on the varsity for four years, playing key roles for the past two seasons,” said Huron head coach Shelly Buddenhagen. “Last year, she played middle blocker on a team which placed third at the state tournament, but she moved to the outside hitter position in the midst of this current season in order to provide a young, inexperienced team with power, while increasing our termination probability both from the back and front row. As she grew into the position, so did the team.
“For much of the season, she has been the lone senior on the court for us and therefore has had to shoulder exponential leadership duties and stability on and off the court. Because of our youth and inexperience, she has endured most of the defensive attention from opponents.”
Macy Denzer, OH, Watertown
The 5-5 senior, who has already committed to compete for North Dakota State in track and field, finished the regular season with 222 kills, 283 digs, 19 service aces, 18 blocks (eight solo) and four set assists.
“Macy is a four-year starter for the Arrows and has proven to be an important asset to the team not only for her athletic ability but also for her knowledge of the game,” said Watertown head coach Kim Rohde. “She is a smart player; she reads the court well and gives 110 percent effort each game while leading the Arrows in kills.”
Hanna Jellema, RS, Brandon Valley
As one of only two juniors on the honor squad, the 5-11 right-side hitter helped lead the Lynx to a runner-up finish at the 2015 AA State Tournament.
She finished with 204 kills, 29 blocks (three solo), 72 digs, 21 aces and 15 set assists during the regular season before adding 43 kills, 13 digs, four assists, a solo block and two assisted blocks in earning all-tournament honors.
“Hanna is a force anywhere along the net and the back row; her dedication and work ethic has resulted in her success this year on the court with her being one of the top dominant hitters in the state,” said Brandon Valley head coach Lindsey Smith. “She can turn any set into a kill and also contributes as one of our primary passers in serve receive. Her versatility has contributed to our offensive success at having a spread offense.”
Samantha Slaughter, MH/OH, Harrisburg
The 6-1 junior helped lead the Tigers to a fourth-place finish at this year’s state tournament.
She had 271 kills, 38 solo blocks, 56 block assists, 26 service aces, 105 digs and three set assists during the regular season and then added 36 kills, 11 block assists, nine digs, five aces and two solo blocks during state tournament play.
“Sami is one of the best middle/outside hitters in the state right now,” said Harrisburg head coach Ronette Costain. “She has a powerful arm and great vertical, which allows her to get the kills at will. She is hard working and can hit several different kinds of hits, from quicks to slides, which adds to our offense and she works hard during the off season to take her skills to the next level.
“She has started playing back row for us this year so we can utilize her strong serving and her passing is coming along with experience. Sami is being recruited by several DI schools and is dedicated to being the best she can be.”
Sara Tvedt, OH, Brookings
Although the 6-2 senior had a big year for the Bobcats on the volleyball floor, she will join Kusler on the hardwood at Northern State.
She finished with 346 kills, 248 digs and 22 service aces to go along with 53 blocks (six solo).
“Since moving to outside hitter this season, Sara has consistently led our team in total kills, as well as hitting percentage,” said Brookings head coach Jodi Melius. “Her leadership has been an equally great contribution – she makes her teammates better by continually encouraging them, and then leads by example.
“She has the offensive power to earn kills from any position on the court, and her defensive skills have improved greatly this year.
Rachel Nelson, 5-4, So., L, Harrisburg: 454 digs, 21 aces, 10 set assists, 1 kill
Becky Frick, 5-11, Sr., OH, Yankton: 209 kills (.197), 52 aces, 43 blocks (10 solo), 268 digs
Avery Thorson, 5-9, So., S/RS, Harrisburg: 418 set assists, 88 kills, 22 aces, 39 blocks (5 solo), 165 digs
Becca Koehn, 5-8, Jr., S, Brandon Valley: 707 assists, 39 kills, 59 aces, 19 blocks (4 solo), 105 digs
Rylie Kooima, 5-6, Sr., L, S.F. Roosevelt: 503 digs, 43 aces, 43 assists, 1 kill
Anezka Szabo, 6-2, Jr., RS, S.F. Lincoln: 240 kills, 134 blocks (39 solo), 37 aces, 220 digs, 6 assists
Taylor Thorson, 5-5, Sr., L, Brandon Valley; 389 digs, 16 aces, 12 assists