Huskies netters fourth at state
The Absarokee Huskies faced one of the toughest challenges in tournament play this past week – climbing back to the top after losing a first-round match.
The Huskies took fourth place at the Montana State Class C volleyball tournament held at Brick Breeden Fieldhouse on the Montana State University campus on Nov. 12-14.
“Is it tough losing the first game? Of course,” Absarokee head coach Tonya Steffenson said. “But with 85 Class C schools participating in volleyball this year, to be a part of the Elite 8 is an honor, win or lose.”
Instead of looking at that first loss on Thursday as a negative, the Huskies looked at it as an opportunity to play more games at the tournament, Steffenson said.
“What an atmosphere and what an experience,” she said. “As a coach, I was very happy with the way we played on Friday. You could tell the girls weren’t ready for their season to be over just yet.”
Absarokee lost the first round against the Powder River County Hawks of Broadus on Nov. 12. The Hawks defeated the Huskies in five sets, 25-17, 25-22, 17-25, 24-26, 15-9, overwhelming Absarokee in kills by 49-34. Both teams were close in aces and blocks.
Senior Emma Chandler led the Huskies with 14 kills, eight blocks, three aces and 16 assists. Senior Maisey Sheppard posted 12 kills, and senior Colleen Culbertson had three aces, three blocks and 13 assists.
Climbing out of the loser brackets on a busy Nov. 13, the Huskies won their next round against the Chinook Sugarbeeters in another hard-fought match, 25-14, 25-17, 21-25, 25-19.
The Huskies hit strong, with 39 kills to 30 and 10 aces to two, and the backcourt defended well with 164 digs to 81, but Chinook was tough at the net, with nine blocks to six.
Chandler was all over the court again, with 13 kills, four blocks, 15 assists and three aces. Sheppard had nine kills and 33 digs, junior Erin Campbell had two blocks and 31 digs, and senior Emma LaMoure had five aces.
Four hours later, the Huskies faced the three-time 2012-2014 state champions, the Gardiner Bruins, who were knocked into the loser brackets by the Circle Wildcats in the second round. The Huskies lost the third set but won the match, 25-21, 25-18, 12-25, 25-23.
The teams were roughly even in unanswered hits, with Gardiner posting 45 kills to 41 and six aces to five. Most of the defense was in the backcourt, as the Huskies notched only one block to none by Gardiner. Campbell had 44 digs, Sheppard had 36 and LaMoure had 31.
Back on the court four hours later, it was the Huskies of Absarokee versus the Huskies of Belt in the fourth-place bracket. Belt had also lost its first-round match, but it was to Gardiner, a team Absarokee had just beaten that afternoon.
Like so many other Class C tournament matches, it was another long battle that went beyond three sets. Belt out hit Absarokee and did better at the net, sending Absarokee’s backcourt defenders scurrying for saves.
Absarokee won the first set in extra points, but Belt won the match, 25-27, 25-18, 25-16, 25-20. Belt’s girls posted 54 kills to Absarokee’s 35 and 13 aces to five, with 15 blocks to 10. Senior Emily Stoker had 19 kills and five aces for Belt.
Chandler had another strong showing for Absarokee, leading the team with 18 kills, two aces and five blocks. Sheppard had eight kills, Culbertson had seven kills, and Peterson had three aces in the loss.
Belt went on to defeat the Hawks in the third-round bracket and the undefeated Wildcats in the first championship round, but they lost to the Wildcats in the deciding championship match, taking second place.
Absarokee has been to the tournament in the past but never won a state volleyball championship. With five starting seniors moving on, the team will be in rebuild mode for next season.
“I’m looking forward to what next year will bring,” Steffenson said. “I had 13 players on varsity this year, each and every single one of them having a job and a place on the team. They pushed each other to be better.”
Campbell, an able hitter and backcourt defender, will return along with a tall front line – Katrina Feddes, a 5-foot 11-inch junior, Haley Domitraschuk, a 5-foot 7-inch sophomore, and Mallorey Sheppard, a 5-foot 9-inch freshman.
“Were this year’s starters talented? Very much so,” Steffenson said. “Did they get there all on their own? Not even close. Who practiced against those starters every day? Who fought for their starting spots day in and day out? Next year’s team did – and that excites me.”
Broadus def. Absarokee
25-17, 25-22, 17-25, 24-26, 15-9
Absarokee: Kills 34 (Emma Chandler 14, Maisey Sheppard 12), Assists 31 (Chandler 16, Colleen Culbertson 13), Blocks 15 (Chandler 8, Culbertson 3), Digs 185 (Erin Campbell 49, Sheppard 39), Aces 10 (Culbertson 3, Chandler 3, Makayla Peterson 3).
Broadus: Kills 49 (Sage Collins 19), Assists 37 (Taylor Drane 27), Blocks 16 (Madison Hansen 6), Digs 51 (Heather LaPlant 12), Aces 8 (Amanda Gaskill 4).
Absarokee def. Chinook
25-14, 25-17, 21-25, 25-19
Absarokee: Kills 39 (Chandler 13, Sheppard 9), Assists 34 (Culbertson 18, Chandler 15), Blocks 6 (Chandler 4, Campbell 2), Digs 164 (Sheppard 33, Campbell 31, Peterson 29), Aces 10 (Emma LaMoure 5, Chandler 3, Culbertson 2).
Chinook: Kills 30 (Abby Ellison 10), Assists 21 (Sierra Swank 12), Blocks 9 (Lauren Harshman 5, Taylor Neibauer 5), Digs 81 (Cortney Gunderson 22), Aces 2 (Swank 1, Ellison 1).
Absarokee def. Gardiner
25-21, 25-18, 12-25, 25-23
Absarokee: Kills 41 (Chandler 19, Sheppard 11), Assists 38 (Chandler 20 , Culbertson 16), Blocks 1 (Chandler 1), Digs 79 (Campbell 44, Sheppard 36, LaMoure 31), Aces 5 (Sheppard 2).
Gardiner: Kills 45 (Brooke Dreyer 11), Assists 43 (Sage Cowley 35), Blocks 0, Digs 95 (PJ Thomas 26), Aces 6 (Cowley 2).
Belt def. Absarokee
25-27, 25-18, 25-16, 25-20
Absarokee: Kills 35 (Chandler 18, Sheppard 8, Culbertson 7), Assists 58 (Culbertson 18, Chandler 9), Blocks 10 (Chandler 5, Culbertson 2), Digs 155 (Campbell 45, Sheppard 30, Peterson 28), Aces 5 (Peterson 3, Chandler 2).
Belt: Kills 54 (Emily Stoker 19, Dani Urick 17), Assists 50 (Addy Martin 49), Blocks 15 (Olivia McCafferty 4), Digs 109 (Alison Stoker 32), Aces 13 (Emily Stoker 5).