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Lady Falcons roll to Western B championship

Hayley Cole and Makenzie Bauck put up a block against the Eureka Lions on Friday at the Western B Divisional tournament in Ronan. Jean Schurman photo

After a challenging undefeated game on Friday night, the Lady Falcons of Florence came back to defeat Thompson Falls in three games on Saturday for the championship. With the pressure of advancing to the state tournament off their shoulders, the Lady Falcons settled down and played their game. Let by seniors Makenzie Bauck and Courtney Byrne who had 10 kills each, Florence found their rhythm early and cruised to the Western B championship. They will advance to the Class B state tournament in Bozeman on Thursday where they will play Townsend, the No. 3 team from the Southern B, at noon.
Friday night’s undefeated match against the Eureka Lions was a challenging match for the Lady Falcons. Undefeated, Florence hasn’t been challenged much this year so this was an opportunity for the team to learn from, said coach Jeff Mahler
“I want every team we play to be on their best. Otherwise we’re not learning,” he concluded.
After winning the first two games, the Lady Falcons had shaken Eureka’s confidence. But midway through the game, the momentum began to shift to the Lions. They started digging up more and making kills while Florence started struggling. Eureka went on to win by four points in game 3.
Florence’s Makenzie Bauck said this was probably the first time her team had been pushed this hard this year. “We weren’t really nervous but we were excited. We knew we had to crack down and play more as a team, and take it very, very seriously.”
The Lady Falcons were down in game 4 as well. Although they never trailed by more than a couple of points, Florence was struggling to regain their momentum. A tip by Bauck tied the score at 18. Then Karli Cotton stepped up and served up three points to give Florence a little edge. Eureka rallied to tie the game again but then the Florence team pulled together and pulled out a 25-21 win, and a trip to state.
“This was a good place for this to happen,” said Mahler. “We almost went through this pretty easily. We let off and they took the momentum completely. And we worked our way back into the game. It’s all about mental toughness.”
Bauck agreed with her coach. She said, “I think it’s good because going into the state tournament, we need to know we can do that and compete with those teams from the east.”
Florence opened their tournament against Bigfork. They cruised through the match and only allowed Bigfork 11 points in the first two games. The Lady Falcons had 26 kills with Bauck and Courtney Byrne slamming down six each.
Florence met up with Thompson Falls in the second round and again cruised to a 3-0 win over the Bluehawks. Melody Maki and Casey Mann had three blocks apiece.
Championship game
Florence def. Thompson Falls, 25-20, 25-18, 25-15.
Kills – Florence 44 (Makenzie Bauck 10, Courtney Byrne 10), T. Falls 19 (Reid 5, Fitchett 5). Blocks – Florence 10 (Hayley Cole 4), T. Falls 7 (Reid 3). Digs – Florence 74 (Karli Cotton 31), T. Falls 51 (Reid 11). Assists – Florence 43 (Bauck 21), T. Falls 18 (Vaught 17). Aces – Florence 12 (Casey Mann 5), T. Falls 4 (four with one).
Undefeated game
Florence def. Eureka, 25-12, 25-16, 21-25, 25-21.
Kills – Florence 55 (Bauck 20), Eureka 37 (Morgan 12). Blocks – Florence 8 (Melody Maki 2), Eureka 5 (Peterson 4). Digs – Florence 115 (Cotton 32), Eureka 71 (Holland 29). Assists – Florence 47 (Megan Byrne 24), Eureka 35 (White 22). Aces – Florence 6 (Bauck 2, Casey Mann 2), Eureka 6 (Short 2).
First Round
Florence def. Bigfork, 25-8, 25-3, 25-19.
Kills – Florence 26 (Bauck 6, C. Byrne 6), Bigfork 9 (Robertson 3, Berg 3). Blocks – Florence 6 (C. Byrne 2, Maki 2), Bigfork 5 (Robertson 3). Digs – Florence 44 (Cotton 15), Bigfork 30 (Meagher 11). Assists – Florence 23 (Bauck 12), Bigfork 8 (Schnell 3, Casalengo 3). Aces – Florence 15 (Mann 5, Bauck 5), Bigfork 4 (Robertson 2).
Second round
Florence def. Thompson Falls, 25-18, 25-18, 25-12.
Kills – Florence 39 (C. Byrne 10), Thompson Falls 21 (Wilson 8). Blocks – Florence 7 (Mann 3, Maki 3), Thompson Falls 8 (Reid 4). Digs – Florence 68 (Cotton 25), Thompson Falls 33 (Beckman 21). Assists – Florence 33 (Bauck 23), Thompson Falls 16 (Vaught 11). Aces – Florence 13 (Mann 5), Thompson Falls 5 (Reid 2).

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