Thursday, January 18, 2018

Lady Bulldogs challenge N.D. teams in faster-paced Dickinson Tournament

Hardin’s Lady Bulldog volleyball team faced off against opponents from North Dakota this past weekend at the state’s Dickinson Tournament in faster, three-set games that left a smaller margin for error than the usual five-set fare. This change, according to Head Coach Tiffany Moullet, added an extra “sense of urgency” for the Bulldogs, who previously suffered from slow starts in five-set games against Sidney and Miles City.
Fewer sets mean fewer chances to pick up the slack.
“You don’t have as much time to wake up,” said Shelby Uffelman, middle hitter for the team. “You have to start out fighting.” 
The Ladies started and ended the Friday segment of the tournament with easy victories against opposing teams from Hettinger and Minot. In both cases, they defeated the teams in three sets. Moullet thinks they should have defeated Minot in two.
The final scores in the Hettinger game were 27-25, 25-16 and 25-12; in the Minot game, the scores were 25-17, 25-21 and 25-18.
The team from Mandan High School, however, struck hard at the Ladies in their second match. Hardin lost with final scores of 25-20, 25-15 and 25-16.
“They were quite a bit tougher,” Moullet said. “They were solid all the way across.”
Mandan’s setter, according to Moullet, was “outstanding,” forming a strong foundation for the team. In addition, she said four skilled hitters were prepared on the Mandan side to receive the ball from the setter.
Further stats for the games with Hettinger, Minot and Mandan were unavailable at press time.
Going into the tournament’s Saturday segment with two wins and one loss, the Ladies were placed in the Silver Bracket with Kindred, where they took another victory with final scores of 25-20, 21-25 and 25-21.
“We went three sets with them and we shouldn’t have, once again,” Moullet said. “We were the better team and we ended up coming out on top, which was a positive, but we really need to work on consistency.”
And how is one to work on consistency?
“We’re kind of trying to figure that out right now,” Shelby said. “I think we need to not play based on our emotions a lot and not let stupid things get us down.”
“I know it annoys me when Shelby gets blocked,” Moullet said.
“That annoys me too,” Shelby said, laughing.
Keaunna Mason earned the most kills and blocks for the team with 10 of 31 and 4 of 6 respectively, Kourtney Chavez took the most assists with 17 of 24, Ashley Uffelman scored the most aces with 2 of 7, and Sarah Edgar hit the most digs with 11 of 56.
Linton fell after Kindred in the Silver Bracket’s third-place match with final scores of 25-21, 21-25 and 25-23. Mason and Elissa Lind earned the most kills that game with 8 apiece of 34, Chavez took the most assists with 12 of 24, Ashley scored the most digs with 13 of 56, and Mason hit the most aces and blocks with 2 of 4 and 6.5 of 9 respectively.
Semifinals proved to be the Ladies’ undoing, however, when they went up against Williston.
“That was a frustrating game,” Moullet said. “We beat them really easily in the first set, super easily.”
What eventually brought the team down, according to Moullet, was “one good player” on the Williston side. This player, an outside hitter, became problematic, especially when the Ladies kept serving to her side of the court.
Every time this outside hitter got the ball, Moullet said, it went down on the Lady Bulldogs’ side of the court. The middle back players weren’t counteracting her shots in time.
“We let her run away with the game,” she said. “I have 11 girls now who are better than all of the players on Williston’s team and we let one girl beat us.
“We couldn’t hit the ball around her. She was everywhere.”
The final scores for the game were 17-25, 25-17 and 25-18. Shelby earned the most kills with 11 of 25, Shea Esp took the most assists with 9 of 25, Lind scored the most aces and digs with 3 of 5 and an undefined number of 39 respectively, and Mason and Shelby hit the most blocks with 1.5 each of 6.
To make sure the Williston situation doesn’t happen again, Hardin intends to learn to compensate defensively. According to Shelby, while not perfect, the Ladies’ defense has gotten better since the beginning of the season.
“I think our defense improved; we still have a ways to go,” Shelby said. “I think our blocking is pretty solid and our digging is good. Our serve-receive is a little bit…iffy.”
The Lady Bulldogs will be challenging Billings Central, ranked second in their Eastern A conference, in a home game on Saturday. After the game with Williston, Moullet said, her team is prepared to counteract this team, who she said also has “one really, really strong player.”
According to Shelby, Billings Central will be “our team to beat” and they’ll need to make sure their opponents don’t “get in our heads.” 
“They’re kind of our rivals when it comes to volleyball,” she said.
The freshmen will be playing Billings Central at 1 p.m., followed by the junior varsity at 2:30 p.m. and the varsity at 4 p.m. The event will be their “Pack the Place in Pink” night, where they will wear pink colors, and raise money to help breast cancer patients by raffling a blanket and hosting a bake sale.