‘Don’t wish for it, work for it,’

As far as mottos go, the one used by the Parker High School volleyball team this season is especially accurate.

A year ago, the Pheasants missed out on qualifying for the South Dakota State Volleyball Tournament, which had been a seemingly regular destination for the program under former coach Jill Christensen — the winningest volleyball coach in state history (837 wins over 36 seasons).

Coming up short proved to be a wakeup call.

The Pheasants, under second-year head coach Carly Rozell embraced the ‘Don’t wish for it, work for it’ motto.

“That’s really been true to these girls this year. They’ve worked hard,” said Rozell, a 2014 Warner High School graduate who played collegiately at Dakota State University.

A year after tallying a 28-3 record and losing in the region tournament, Parker has bounced back to reach this year’s Class A State Tournament in Watertown. The Pheasants (18-7), the No. 7 seed, will open against Hill City on Thursday night at 7 p.m.

To reach this point, the Pheasants had to embrace a more intense work ethic to make a return trip to state, according to Rozell.

“Last year when we didn’t get to go, it was a little bit of a change of pace,” she said. “We realized that we have to work hard all the time if we want this to happen.”

As ‘amped up’ as the Pheasants may have been this season, they — along with every other team — still had to deal with COVID-19.

“It was hard to get into a rhythm, because so and so would be gone for a couple weeks, and then someone else would be,” Rozell said. “It made it really difficult.”

What Parker did, though, is rally together in those moments when certain players were out, according to Rozell. The Pheasants, she added, had to take things day by day — “or even hour by hour” — and find new ways to be effective on the court.

Parker opened the season with a 10-1 start, but in one day in September lost four matches and then lost another match. The Pheasants, though, closed the regular season with four straight wins and then won one match in the Region 5A Tournament and beat Baltic in the SoDak 16.

It’s been behind the leadership of Parker’s nine seniors that the Pheasants have reached this point, according to Rozell.

Leading the way have been seniors Shelby Lang (247 kills, 39 aces, 287 digs), Ryleigh Andersen (195 kills), Breana Jensen (37 aces, 402 digs), Cierra Mohr (815 set assists, 220 digs), Morgen Carlson (102 kills) and Grace DeWald (149 digs), along with Abigayle Gavette, Ellie Hansen and Sarah Herlyn.

“We have nine seniors, which has been so much fun,” Rozell said. “It’s a huge thing for our team, because all of them have stepped into those roles better than I would have imagined.”

Also contributing to the main rotation have been juniors Brooke Berens (247 kills, 34 aces, 76 total blocks) and Lexi Even (197 digs).

Although Parker will open the state tournament as a perceived underdog as the No. 7 seed, the Pheasants know everyone has a fresh start, according to Rozell.

“I’m in a big believer in everyone is 0-0; we tell our girls that all the time,” she said. “Anything could happen.”

That said, she likes Parker’s side of the bracket, partly because the Pheasants have only played one (Dakota Valley) of the four teams — they haven’t faced Hill City or Rapid City Christian this season.

“I was looking the (Class) B bracket, and Warner is playing Hitchcock-Tulare, and I thought, ‘We played them every single year,’” Rozell said. “It’ll be fun to see new teams.”

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