BROOKINGS — Though Roosevelt’s season ended in heartbreak instead of jubilation, Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Harrisburg in the AA championship does little to detract from the Riders’ impressive body of work.
A senior-laden group whose roster includes a senior setter in Abby Heberlee who had never played the position for RHS before this season and the state’s youngest libero in 14-year-old Tatum Kooima, Roosevelt bullied its way through the regular season, finishing 19-9 overall with a 13-3 mark against in-state competition.
The team’s success in 2016 was due, at least in part, to scheduling. Not unlike her city-school counterparts, RHS coach Holly Lynch challenged her team during the regular season, crossing state lines to participate in tournaments in Marshall, Minn. and Lakeville, Minn.
Those two five-match weekend swings pit Roosevelt against some of the top teams from The Gopher State, including Section 1AAA finalists Lakeview North and Lakeview South (South won and went on to finish third in Class AAA). Though both those matches ended in defeat, RHS did post a winning record overall against out-of-state competition.
“We go and challenge ourselves at tournaments for this opportunity,” Lynch said. “I think it gives us a different perspective of different teams, different offenses and different defenses moving forward.”
After taking out Brookings and O’Gorman to claim the District 1AA title, Roosevelt went to work at the Swiftel Center. A sweep of Washington on Thursday avenged one of the Riders’ three regular-season in-state losses and was followed by a four-set takedown of Rapid City Stevens.
Though Lynch thought her team’s efforts through the first two rounds were a bit lackluster, she was impressed with their performance in Saturday’s finale.
“I thought (Saturday) we played the absolute best we could have played,” she said. “That’s the best way to end the season. I know it’s obviously not a championship, but this team played great.”
Roosevelt, which has reached the finals in six of the last seven state tournaments, will lose seven seniors off this year’s roster, second only to Brandon Valley, Huron and Rapid City, all of whom had eight, for the most in Class AA.
“They all played a huge role in our season this year,” Lynch said of her senior class. “Each one of them shares such a gift to us. I tell them every day, ‘Share your gifts,’ because each one of them has one.”
A huge shout out to our 7 Sr. players. You have been a blast these past 4 years! You've will be missed dearly! pic.twitter.com/5llsgEOKqE— Roosevelt Volleyball (@RoughRiderVball) November 21, 2016
Follow Brian Haenchen on Twitter at @Brian_Haenchen .