Top-ranked Raiders dealing with high expectations

The Rapid City Stevens volleyball team was recently tabbed as the preseason No. 1-ranked squad in the Class AA ranks after finishing as the state runner-up last season. The Raiders return all-staters Elizabeth Schaefer and Phebie Rossi along with a bevy of other talented players this year.

I swung by a recent practice to see how they're handling the preseason hype.

The preseason No. 1-ranked Rapid City Stevens volleyball team has big expectations, and big goals, this season as they look to win the school's fourth ever state championship.

Emily Sobczak said, "It's exciting to be No. 1 this year and, yeah, I think we're ready to take it on."

The Raiders racked up 30 wins last season before falling to the defending state champion Harrisburg in the Class AA title match and that taste of success ... and failure ... looks to drive Coach Kylie Voorhees' squad.

Voorhees said, "I know that the girls are highly motivated, um, they are hungry from last year having lost in the finals having got so close and having such a successful season."

While everyone on the Stevens roster would much prefer to be defending a state championship this year, having that ultimate goal so close, and having a better understanding of just what it will take to reach it, has forged a stronger, more confident Raider squad as it looks to win its first state title since 2007.

Sobczak said, "It helps a lot, it kind of helps with the nerves I feel like and everybody just like knowing what it feels like, so it will be a good advantage I guess, hopefully."

And while the Raiders will head into most every match as a favorite with a target on their back, and a desire and ability to win every time they step between the lines, entering the state tournament at their best is the ultimate goal.

Voorhees said, "We need to make sure that we don't peak too soon. We need to again focus on the little things that can make the big difference at the end so again that we don't have the same outcome as we did last season."

And if all goes according to plan, that outcome will have the Raiders once against playing on the final night of the season in Sioux Falls, but with an entirely different feeling as they walk off the court.