Huskies and Renegades advance to divisionals

Mikaela Koski
Thursday, November 1, 2018

SCN photo by Mikaela Koski

Absarokee’s Kaiya Holmquist and Maggie Howes go up to block against Custer-Hysham in the first round of the district tournament. See the photo gallery at the bottom of our web page for more photos!

SCN photo by Mikaela Koski

RPR junior Carlee Blodgett goes for the kill against Roberts Thursday afternoon.   See the photo gallery at the bottom of our web page for more photos!

The Absarokee Huskies entered last week’s 4C District Volleyball Tournament as the third seed, and by the time it was all said and done, they worked their way up to earn the second spot in the district.

In first round play on Thursday morning, Absarokee faced the Custer-Hysham Rebels.  The Huskies came out of the locker room ready to play, and the team got an early lead and never let go, resisting a last-minute Rebel push, for the 25-17 set one victory.

In the second game, Absarokee had to come from behind to make up for some poor communication early in the game, but the Huskies got it done with a 25-15 win.  Absarokee again started out slow in the third set, but a couple big plays shifted the momentum halfway through, and the Huskies cruised to a match victory with a 25-11 win during game three.

The Custer-Hysham game was a true team effort by Absarokee, with a different player leading each statistical category.  Senior Mallorey Sheppard had 12 kills, and junior Kaiya Holmquist put up 15 assists.  Junior Lexi Meier had 13 of the team’s 38 digs, and fellow junior Kennedy Ekwortzel had two blocks.  Sophomore Keara Young rounded out the group with five aces.

The win against the Rebels bumped the Huskies into an undefeated match against the Park City Panthers Thursday evening.  Park City started out strong and kept the momentum to secure a 25-14 win in the first set.  In the second game, the Panthers began with the excitement and momentum, but after a couple big plays by the Huskies, the game was tied at nine, and the momentum started to shift.  Absarokee went on to take the set, 25-15.

Absarokee had to battle in the third game, as Park City stayed right with them the entire set.  The Huskies were able to hold on, though, for a 25-21 victory.  The fourth set began with Absarokee really taking charge, but the Panthers were not going to give up.  Park City out-scored the Huskies 9-2 to get within striking distance, but Absarokee was able to hold on for the match victory with a 25-22 win.

As a team, the Huskies had 27 kills and 79 digs, and Sheppard led in both categories with 16 and 26, respectively.  Sheppard also had two aces.  Holmquist had 25 assists, and Ekwortzel had seven blocks on the night.

The win landed Absarokee in the semifinal game Friday evening against the always  tough Bridger Scouts.  The Scouts played well, sweeping the Huskies 25-8, 25-12, and 25-15.

Again, Sheppard led in kills (with six), in digs (with eight), and in aces (with one).  Holmquist had 10 assists and Ekwortzel again put up seven blocks.

Absarokee’s first loss of the tournament bumped them down to the consolation match against the Reed Point-Rapelje Renegades.  After winning the first two sets 25-15 and 25-16, the Huskies had to outlast a final push by the Renegades to secure the 25-22 victory.

In the championship match, Absarokee played tougher against Bridger than during the first time around, but the Scouts still controlled the match with 25-12, 25-18, and 25-17 wins to secure the district title.

The Huskies finished the tournament in second place, good for a berth to the divisional tournament.

Absarokee Coach Nicki Reissig said she is “overjoyed” with her team’s performance last weekend.

“Going in as a third seed and coming out as second was awesome,” she explained.  “Hopefully that move has set us up for some success again this weekend.”

The Southern C Divisional Tournament will be held in Lewistown from Thursday through Saturday this week.  In the first round of play, Absarokee will face the Melstone Lady Broncs at 12 p.m. at Fergus High School.

“I’m excited for some tough matches,” Reissig noted.  “Nothing is easy from here on out, so I’m hoping my girls can continue to fulfill their potential.”

As far as the Melstone match is concerned, Reissig said it should be a good one.  The Huskies faced the Lady Broncs during the opening tournament of the season, falling 2-0 in pool play.

Melstone went into the 5C District Tournament ranked fifth (with a 5-7 conference record) and came out in third.



The Renegades kicked off play at the district tournament last week with a tough match against the Roberts Rockets.  RPR started out strong and withstood Roberts’ last-minute momentum for the 25-16 and 25-15 victories in the first two sets.

In the third game, RPR started slow and the Rockets took full advantage for a 25-12 Roberts win.  The fourth set was a true battle, and though the Renegades had several chances to put the game away, the Rockets were able to rebound and take the set into overtime.  In the end, RPR fell 29-27.  Roberts rode the momentum to a 15-10 set five victory.

Junior Carlee Blodgett had a good game, putting down 27 of the team’s 33 kills, as well as six blocks and three aces.  Senior Jocelyn Ott had 31 assists, and freshman Kassidee Humphreys had six digs.

The loss set the Renegades up to play in loser-out matches for the rest of the tournament.

Friday morning, RPR faced the Plenty Coups Lady Warriors.  The Renegades put up a dominating performance, winning the match in three games: 25-9, 25-12, and 25-15.

Blodgett had 15 kills, and Ott put up 19 assists.  Sophomore Justice Albers had four of the team’s 10 aces.

Friday afternoon, then, the Renegades played in a cross-county match-up against Park City.  The winner would advance to the fourth place game and earn a place at divisionals, while the loser’s season was over.

From the first serve, the match was tight.  RPR was able to hold out for the 26-24 victory in the opening set, but Park City fought back for a 25-15 win in the second game.  The Renegades took set three 25-18, but then fell in the fourth game by the same score.  In the fifth set, RPR was able to outlast the Panthers with a 15-11 win to take the match.

Blodgett had 16 of the team’s 20 kills, as well as eight blocks.  Ott racked up 19 assists and six aces throughout the match, and senior Mercedes Hoff had nine digs.

The win set up a rematch between RPR and Roberts.  While the match was still very close between the two teams, the Renegades came out on top this time, winning in four sets: 25-22, 24-26, 25-21, and 25-14.

Blodgett came up with 17 kills and four blocks, while Ott had 17 assists and four aces.  Humphreys dug the ball six times.

RPR earned itself a place in the consolation match with the win over Roberts.  The three-set loss to Absarokee Saturday morning ensured the Renegades third place at the tournament and a spot at the divisional tourney this week.

RPR Coach Teresa Bare thought her team played very well at the district tournament.

“After the early loss to Roberts, the girls were able to refocus and really set their mind on winning and going to the divisional tourney,” she explained.

Bare noted that because the match against Plenty Coups was quick, the Renegades were able to rest up for the Park City match – a game with important implications, of which both teams were very aware.

“I was quite proud of not only the older team leaders, but of my young girls that really stepped up in a challenging situation to secure the win,” she said of the Park City game.

Bare said the team is looking forward to the divisional tournament.

At 4 p.m. on Thursday, RPR will play the Tri-City Titans in first-round play.

“Tri-Cities is an unknown to us, but will be a challenge as will all of the teams at the tourney this week,” she explained.

Tri-City ended the season with a 10-2 conference record – good for the second seed.  At the 5C tournament last week, the Titans ended in the same place.



The Panthers kicked off district tournament play Thursday morning against the Belfry Bats.  Park City played well throughout the match, putting together three solid sets – 25-9, 25-10, and 25-13 – to win the match and advance to the evening game against Absarokee.

In the evening game, the Panthers got caught in the momentum swings and could never establish a rhythm in the four-set loss to the Huskies.

Senior Breanne Smith had a good game with 19 assists, 12 digs, and seven aces.  Fellow senior Blakely Verke had 12 of the team’s 30 kills, as well as two blocks.

Park City Coach Kate Cristaldi described how the team got caught in the momentum, saying that both teams can be very up and down at times.

“Their ups coincided with our downs and things just got worse from there,” she explained.

The loss sent Park City to the loser-out game against RPR Friday afternoon.  The Panthers fought hard, but lost in five sets.

Smith had 26 assists and 16 digs against the Renegades.  Verke put down 16 kills, and senior Alyx Grabowska put up a pair of blocks.  Junior Hayley Story had eight of the team’s 24 aces.

“The game against RPR was not our best, but it was a decent one to end on,” Cristaldi said.  “While we would have much preferred the win, it was a good match.”

She added how the Renegades always impress her with their heart and hustle, two qualities that give RPR a good chance regardless of who is on the court.

The loss to RPR ended the Panthers’ season short of the divisional tournament.

Overall, Park City had a good season, ending the regular season in second place in the district with a conference record of 10-3.

“This season, while it ended sooner than I think it should have, was such an improvement over last year,” Cristaldi said.  “We will miss our seniors greatly, but will spend next year building.”



The Cougars played in the 4B District Tournament in Roundup on Friday.  The team’s first-round test was the home team Roundup Panthers, the third seed in the district.

Roundup came out on top in the first game 25-12.  Although the Columbus offense was a little more productive the second set, it was not enough to beat the Panthers, and the Cougars fell 25-16. Roundup took the match with a 25-10 game three win.

For Columbus, sophomore Reed Johnson had a good game, with 12 assists, eight digs, 2.5 blocks, and one ace.  Senior Morgan Kirch had seven kills, and sophomore Trista Teeters had nine digs.  To round out the group, junior Cassie Ludwig had an ace.

Cougar Coach Lindsey Cross noted that while the team had a good week of practice and was able to come out tough against Roundup, Columbus could not manage to take a set against a good Panther team.

“The last time we played Roundup we didn’t do well, and so I was pleased that the girls came out and competed against them,” Cross explained.  “I saw some great moments of fight, but we just couldn’t put a whole set together.”

The loss sent the Cougars to a loser-out match against Shepherd Friday evening.  The Fillies jumped out to an early lead with a 25-15 win in the first set.  Columbus fought back, losing the second game by four points, 25-21.

Down two sets, the Cougars kept their season alive with a 25-22 win in the third game.  The comeback was not to be, though; Shepherd took the match with a 25-13 set four victory.

In her final game as a Cougar, senior Morgan Kirch played well, with 11 of the team’s 26 kills, as well as three aces.  Johnson had 15 assists, and junior Brenna Rouane had 17 digs.  Junior RaiLeigh Strommen recorded three blocks.

Against Shepherd, Cross said Columbus failed to get the different aspects of the game to click.

While the pair of losses ended the Cougars’ season, Cross was glad the team was able to “enjoy the tournament experience.”

She explained how the Columbus team rallied around the Joliet team, only a day after the J-Hawks suffered the loss of a fellow student in a car accident.

“One of my proudest moments was to see our girls set volleyball and rivals aside to support the Joliet team in their tragedy,” Cross said.  “Our team prayed with the girls, hugged on them and then were a loud cheering section for them as they played Roundup.

“I talk a lot during the season that I don’t just want the girls to be good at volleyball, I want them to be good students, good daughters, and just good people.  This was an example of being great people and stepping outside of their frustration with a loss earlier in the day.”

Cross mentioned that,“The season ended with much sadness, but as we all took some time to reflect, we noticed a lot of growth that happened.”

She noted that there were really only two varsity players that returned from last year, so the team gained a lot of experience this season.  The 4B district is one of the toughest in the state, so that experience will translate into real growth next year.

This season was a building year for the young Cougars, and Cross is excited about what the future has in store.

“We are only losing one senior, so it is exciting to get to work with a very similar team next year,” the Columbus coach said.  “I am hoping to have the group put in some good off-season work so we can start tough next year.”

Cross extended her thanks to the players, parents, fans, band, and cheerleaders “for the awesome support throughout the season.”