Saturday, February 24, 2018

Outside hitter Ashley Uffelman prepares to spike the ball at the combined Eastern A-Central A Divisional volleyball tournament in Livingston last weekend. The Lady Bulldogs took fourth in the tournament and intend to improve upon their matches to take the top spot in state.Middle hitter Shelby Uffelman jumps for the ball at the divisional tournament. The Ladies played their best game this tournament against Belgrade, according to Head Coach Tiffany Moullet, and their worst against Billings Central.

Aiming high

Lady Bulldog volleyball team takes fourth in Eastern A, Central A Divisions, prepares for state
I’m happy and proud of this team that we made it to state, but I’m not okay with just going to state.” – Korah Lachenmeier, defensive specialist

Hardin’s Lady Bulldogs went two-for-two in the combined Eastern A-Central A Divisional volleyball tournament in Livingston from last Thursday to Saturday, placing fourth overall and qualifying for  state. The Ladies knocked Lewistown and Miles City out of the running, put up what the players consider to be one of their best fights in the match against Belgrade, and then fell apart in their final match of the tournament against Billings Central.

At the state tournament, Hardin and Billings Central will be representing the Eastern A Division, and Belgrade and Havre will be representing Central A.

Speaking two days after divisionals, the team’s defensive specialist Korah Lachenmeier and outside hitter Elissa Lind expressed the desire to take the top spot in state. They hope their team feels the same way.

“I’m happy and I’m proud of this team that we made it to state, but I’m not okay with just going to state,” Lachenmeier said. “I want to place in state and I know Elissa wants to place in state.

We’re seniors; we want to end this on a good note.”

“We want to place and, even better, be that champion,” Lind added.

Lewistown last Thursday and Miles City on Friday didn’t prove to be much of a problem for the Ladies. The final scores in the Lewistown match were 18-25, 25-22, 25-15 and 28-26. The final scores in Miles City were 25-17, 25-17 and 25-23.

Lind and Keaunna Mason scored the most kills for the Ladies against Lewistown with 17 and 10 respectively of 42 total. Kourtney Chavez completed far and away the most assists with 35 of 37. Mason kept the ball on Lewistown’s side with three of six blocks and Chavez kept it hitting the ground on their side with four of six aces. Where the Ladies had the highest advantage statistically was in digs: they returned the ball 99 times to Lewistown’s 48 – Sarah Edgar and Ashley Uffelman hit 21, and Lind 17.

Lind kept the kills coming against Miles City with nine of 32 total. Chavez led in assists with 25 of 29 and aces with three of 10. The top blocker was Mason by slim margin: 1.5 of four. The digs were closer that game with Hardin leading statistically 95-89: Edgar returned 26 and Uffelman returned 21.

The previous two years, Miles City kept Hardin out of the state tournament. This year, they didn’t win a single match against the Lady Bulldogs.

While Head Coach Tiffany Moullet said Miles City wasn’t going to “just roll over and die,” Lind compared their match to playing against Hardin’s junior varsity team.

 “I was concerned that [the Ladies] were going to walk out like, ‘Oh, we’re going to win this,’” Moullet said of the Miles City match, “and that’s kind of how they played.

“I’m happy that we won it in three, but we could have won it better.”

Moullet, Lachenmeier and Lind actually expressed the most pride in Friday’s match against Belgrade, which they lost in four sets. They managed to defeat Belgrade in the first set and drove their opponents past the 25-point mark in the fourth.

Belgrade, known to be the heavy hitter by both divisions, took the tournament championship Saturday after defeating second-place winner Billings Central in three sets and third-place Havre in five.

“That is the team that we should always play like,” Lachenmeier said of the Belgrade match. “We fought so hard in those games.

“We had defense – we dug up the ball; our servers were on point, which allowed our hitters to execute the ball. I think we just came together as a team. Everything worked just how we wanted it to.”

“When we played Belgrade, we played like a state champion team,” Lind said.

The final scores against Belgrade were 19-25, 25-23, 25-18 and 27-25.

Lind scored the most kills against Belgrade with 12 of 39 total, Chavez took all of the assists for herself – 36, Shea Esp scored three of five aces and Shelby Uffelman took care of three of seven blocks. While Belgrade led the Ladies by 10 in kills, four in assists and five in blocks, Hardin more than doubled them in the realm of digs: 136-65. Of this number, Edgar returned 33.

Where the Belgrade match was uplifting for the Ladies, Billings Central was depressing. If they played Central like they did Belgrade, Moullet said, they definitely would have won.

“We played our worst game of the tournament and they played their best game,” Moullet said. “It was not a good match-up.”

A significant portion of the team, she said, seemed to be of the mindset that fourth place was good enough.

“There were some attitudes on the team that didn’t match up with some of the other girls’ attitudes,” Lachenmeier said. “The coach said, ‘We win as a team and we lose as a team.’”

According to Lachenmeier, Hardin has a mental block of sorts when it comes to defeating Billings Central, which has been ingrained into the team over a period of years. This, she said, needs to change if the Ladies want to succeed at state.

“In my sophomore year when I walked out and played Central, everybody had the mindset of, ‘Oh, it’s Central, we’re going to lose, so we might as well just fight,’” Lachenmeier said, “but now, my mindset is we walk out there, and we are better than Central and we can beat Central.”

The final scores in the match against Billings Central were 25-22, 25-13 and 25-22.

Lind scored 11 of 24 total kills, Chavez once again took all 20 assists, Esp shot two of three aces, Aubrey Meiwald blocked two of three shots and Edgar returned the ball for 28 of 80 digs.

The Ladies will be playing Nov. 12-14 at Montana State University-Bozeman for the state tournament. Their first opponent, from the Southwest A Division, will be Corvallis High School at 4 p.m. this Thursday.