Hamilton’s Nichole Hood makes a kill, as Mary Conwell, Colleen McGibben and Kennedy Chadwick get ready to defend. Jean Schurman photo
The All Class Volleyball tournament is not for sissies. With the top teams in each division competing for a state championship, the level of play is high with top players stepping up their game. Add to that the atmosphere of the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse and the chaos of four matches going on at one time and confusion reigns for first time attendees.
Hamilton and Corvallis were the representatives of the Southwest A and Florence represented the Western B conference. Neither Hamilton nor Corvallis had been to the state tournament for several years. Florence attended last year and was hoping that experience would help with the nerves.
Hamilton opened against Miles City. The Lady Broncs were a bit awestruck by how large the building was according to coach DeEtte Monson. The Class A court was in the center with only a net separating their court from the Class C court. The distraction of the other game kept Hamilton from getting off to a good start. But the team found their composure and although they didn’t win the match, they had some good volleys.
“We let our nerves get the best of us,” said Monson. “It’s a lot different playing here than in a normal tournament.”
Miles City swept the Lady Broncs in three games. Sophomore Penny Gwynn had eight kills to lead Hamilton. Although the two teams matched up in size, the Cowgirls used their experience to create opportunities and make points.
Miles City def. Hamilton, 25-16, 25-20, 25-14.
Kills – Miles City 31 (Kaylee Swope 11), Hamilton 23 (Penny Gwynn 8). Blocks – Miles City 9 (Dani Finn 4), Hamilton 4 (Nichole Hood 2). Digs – Miles City 57 (Swope 12), Hamilton 60 (Kennedy Chadwick 17). Assists – Miles City 27, Hamilton 23 (Mary Conwell 20). Aces – Miles City 4 (Swope 2), Hamilton 3 (Conwell 2).
Hamilton’s second match was against a familiar foe, Polson. The two teams had met up early in the season at the Tip Off Tournament and Hamilton had come away the winner in that match. It looked as if Hamilton would win again after the first game.
“They really stepped up,” said Monson. “They played really, really hard.”
Hamilton took the first game but then lost a close second game. The Lady Broncs came back and won the second game by two points but were unable to take either of the last two games.
Monson said her team played as a team and really worked to keep everyone’s efforts going. Mary Conwell stepped up with 37 assists and two aces.
“It was a lot of fun,” concluded Monson. “We were really pleased to get there. We took some younger members and they got to see what it’s all about.”
Polson def. Hamilton, 21-25, 26-24, 25-27, 25-15, 15-12.
Kills – Polson 61 (Riley Kenney 15), Hamilton 50 (Rebecka Hood 17). Blocks – Polson 9 (Heidi Rausch 3), Hamilton 6 (Nichole Hood 4, Rhayn Ransier 4). Digs – Polson 135 (Shalaina Duford 33), Hamilton 104 (R. Hood 27). Assists – Polson 53 (Duford 49), Hamilton 48 (Mary Conwell 37). Aces – Polson 3 (three with one), Hamilton 7 (Colleen McGibben 2, Conwell 2).
Corvallis’ Laura Berner and Whitney Jessop make a block on a Billings Central hit. Jean Schurman photo
Corvallis was overlooked much of the season and opponents never expected the Blue Devils to make it to the state tournament. However after taking second at the Southwest A Divisional, the Blue Devils set out to prove they could play with the best.
“We knew we had the potential that we had to go to state,” said Corvallis coach Kasey Arceniega. “It just gave them more incentive to work throughout the season.”
They took on Billings Central in their opening match. Although the Billings Central Rams took the match in three games, it was not without a fight. Corvallis plays a scrappy type of defense and as they relaxed, their defense picked up. Sophomore Joanna Avery came in and had four kills and two blocks. All of the Blue Devils played tough at the net but couldn’t combat the experience of the Billings team.
“Billings Central is a tough team and the girls were nervous,” said Arceniega. “But as they adjusted to a faster offense, we had some long rallies.”
Billings Central def. Corvallis, 25-16, 25-17, 25-7.
Kills – Corvallis 12 (Joanna Avery 4, Whitney Jessop 4), Billings Central 43 (Danny Kucera 11). Blocks – Corvallis 4 (Avery 2, Alex Ewing 2), Billings Central 7 (Justyn Juhl 3). Digs – Corvallis 32 (Alex Price 11), Billings Central 69 (Nicole Wildin 14). Assists – Corvallis 11 (Laura Berner 6), Billings Central 40 (Katie Cummins 36). Aces – Corvallis 5 (Price 2, Gianna Schrock 2), Billings Central 10 (Alyssa Melder 3).
Next up for the Blue Devils were the Whitefish Bulldogs. Corvallis came out focused and ready to play Friday morning. They rolled over the Northwest A team in three games to earn a win. Avery finished with ten kills and two blocks. Laura Berner knocked down three aces.
“They were more comfortable playing Whitefish,” said the coach. “We’ve seen them three times and it nice to get them in three.”
Corvallis def. Whitefish, 25-17, 25-19, 25-20.
Kills – Corvallis 29 (Joanna Avery 10), Whitefish 24 (Abby Strellnauer 11). Blocks – Corvallis 4 (Avery 2), Whitefish 1 (E. Sullivan). Digs – Corvallis 53 (Laura Berner 13, Alex Price 13), Whitefish 33 (Bekah Weaver 7). Assists – Corvallis 23 (Price 13), Whitefish 23 (Taylor Havens 23). Aces – Corvallis 9 (Berner 3), Whitefish 8 (Sheila Murphy 3).
With the win, Corvallis had to take on Miles City in more loser out action. The Blue Devils were not about to go home without a fight. Miles City won the first two games but Corvallis rallied and won the third game, 17-25. The Cowgirls came back and won the fourth and final game, 25-22, to end the season for the Blue Devils. Whitney Jessop had 11 kills and Berner had four blocks, 30 digs and four aces.
Miles City def. Corvallis, 26-24, 25-10, 17-25, 25-22.
Kills – Miles City 44 (Kaylee Swope 13, Dani Finn 13), Corvallis 28 (Whitney Jessop 11). Blocks – Miles City 12 (Finn 5), Corvallis 7 (Laura Berner 4). Digs – Miles City 94 (Swope 21), Corvallis 99 (Berner 30). Assists – Miles City 38 (Ashlee Janitell 35), Corvallis 21 (Alex Price 12). Aces – Miles City 9 (Finn 4), Corvallis 10 (Berner 4).
Corvallis has some great upcoming talent said Arceniega. Joanna Avery began the season playing mostly junior varsity but as the season progressed, she brought Avery in more and more to play at the net. At six feet tall, her blocking is steadily improving. Another sophomore, Laura Berner, is the team’s setter. She was injured the last week of the season and so some adjustments had to be made for the post-season play. Alex Price, another sophomore, came in to help run the offense while Berner continued to play strong defense and had some powerful serves. This state tournament experience will be a huge asset next season according to Arceniega.
“But going to state is an experience they all will always remember
Taylor Maricelli of Florence looks to see if the ball was out of bounds during their match against Florence. Jean Schurman photo
This was Florence’s second trip to Bozeman in two years. Last year, the young team was battling injuries in addition to the first-time experience. Although still young, there are only two seniors on the team; these players have gained in experience through club ball and the season. They were excited and ready to play.
Their first opponent was the Broadwater (Townsend) Bulldogs. This team featured three players over six feet tall, and was the tallest team Florence had faced. The size did impact how Florence played said coach Jeff Mahler.
“We were watching them play volleyball instead of playing. They were so much bigger, it took a while to figure out how to play against bigger people.”
After spotting the Bulldogs nine points, the Lady Falcons worked their way back into the first game and only lost by three points. They came on with a vengeance in the second game and won, 7-25. They also won the third game in a close match but then lost the final two games and the match. Casey Mann had 22 kills. Taylor Maricelli
Townsend def. Florence, 25-22, 7-25, 23-25, 25-22, 15-11.
Kills – Florence 57 (Casey Mann 22), Townsend 55 (B. Anderson 17). Blocks – Florence 24 (Melody Maki 6, Sam Mitchell 6), Townsend 12 (M. Bauser 4). Digs – Florence 132 (Taylor Maricelli 41), Townsend 25 (C. Hamilton 9). Assists – Florence 57 (Makenzie Bauck 53), Townsend 47 (M. Watson 27). Aces – Florence 8 (Maricelli 3), Townsend 8 (three with two).
Florence then took on Cut Bank in loser out action. The Lady Falcons won the first two games easily but were pushed in the third and final game. Mann again controlled the left side of the net with nine kills. Courtney Byrne had five blocks.
“It was the first time that a Florence volleyball team has won at state since I’ve been involved here,” said Mahler.
Florence def. Cut Bank, 25-15, 25-15, 26-24.
Kills – Cut Bank 28 (Kayla Kraft 10), Florence 33 (Casey Mann 9). Blocks – Cut Bank 17 (Reedie Spencer 6), Florence 19 (Courtney Byrne 5). Digs – Cut Bank 92 (Jenny Greenwald 19), Florence 90 (Taylor Maricelli 33). Assists – Cut Bank 24 (Spencer 22), Florence 32 (Makenzie Bauck 29). Aces – Cut Bank 4 (four with one), Florence 6 (Maricelli 3).
After defeating the Wolves, Florence took on Choteau. Florence had a rough time in the first game but then battled back to push Choteau. Maricelli finished her high school career with 22 digs and two aces.
“They beat us up pretty good in the first game but we were up on them in the last, just couldn’t keep it together,” said Mahler.
Choteau def. Florence, 25-9, 25-22, 27-25.
Kills – Choteau 38 (Alisha Breen 17), Florence 29 (Casey Mann 8). Blocks – Choteau 14 (Amber Graf 4.5), Florence 10 (Mann 3). Digs – Choteau 38 (Nicole Munoz 11), Florence 71 (Taylor Maricelli 22). Assists – Choteau 38 (Kelci May 32), Florence 29 (Makenzie Bauck 29). Aces – Choteau 8 (Breen 3), Florence 3 (Maricelli 2).
“I’m happy that we can compete at that level, and that most of them have another year,” said Mahler