Saturday, February 24, 2018

Hardin Head Coach Tiffany Moullet crouches by her players during last Thursday evening’s home volleyball game as libero Katie Murdock (foreground) prepares for her next dig against the Billings Central Rams. Behind Moullet (from the left) are middle hitter Demi Uffelman, Vice Principal Amberly Howe, defensive specialist Brittney Schaff and middle hitter Shelby Uffelman (currently recovering from an injury).Right hitter Imani Kindness bumps the ball against the Billings Central Rams as fellow hitters Mariah Simmons (left) and Arena Plenty look on.

Lady Bulldogs lose steam in an ‘emotional game’ against Rams

Hardin gains momentum to defeat Miles City Cowgirls
This season, Hardin’s Lady Bulldog volleyball team has dispatched Sidney’s Lady Eagles, Glendive’s Red Devils, Laurel’s Locomotives and – once again on Saturday – the Miles City Cowgirls. Only one Eastern A team, holding an 8-0 win-loss record in conference, remains undefeated by the Ladies: the Billings Central Lady Rams.
If last Thursday evening’s home-court loss against the Rams is any indication, the Ladies will need to improve upon their consistency to take the top Eastern A spot.
“They played a really emotional game; you could see it in the score,” said Hardin Head Coach Tiffany Moullet of her team. “Every other game was good, then really bad, then really good, then really bad.”
The Ladies had a significantly slow start to begin the first set, falling behind 1-7 within minutes, but then the Rams slowed down as Hardin sped up. As the Rams faltered, the Ladies went in for the kill, quite literally – kills in volleyball refer to point-scoring plays via spikes, tips or dumps.
“We found momentum and just took it to the end,” said outside hitter Ashley Uffelman, who scored the most kills in the overall match at 12 of 30 total. The runner-up was middle hitter Aubrey Meiwald at 6, returning to the game following a recent injury.
Minutes later, the Ladies were ahead 10-9, buffered by exceptional blocking and cheers from an enthusiastic, orange-clad crowd. Among the loudest was team manager Kelcie Roan, located in the bleachers parallel to the net with cheerleaders and fans. 
Soon, the Ladies shot ahead 20-12 with little hope for Central to catch up to Hardin. They didn’t. The final score for the first set was 25-18.
To begin the second, Ashley and middle hitter Demi Uffelman stretched their arms out as they looked toward their opponents on the other side of the net, clearly happy with their present situation. This feeling would not last long as the Rams’ lead rose from 2-3 to 2-9.
Central had faltered before. They weren’t going to make the same mistake this time around.
“As soon as Central adjusted, we should have been like, ‘We need to play harder, too,’” Ashley said. “We didn’t and I think they just took it from there.”
Final score for the second set was 10-25.
Hardin continued to trail Central for much of the third set, though the scores remained closer than in the second. Attitudes on the Hardin side remained tense, with Moullet crouching beside players on the sidelines as volleys went back and forth, more often in the Rams’ favor.
Then, the score hit 16-24. For the Rams, that last point would be arguably their most difficult in all four sets of the match. 
The Hardin crowd’s cheers increased in volume as the Ladies racked up point after point, bringing their score past where the previous pattern would suggest. Two Central players collided while diving toward a spike at the 22-24 mark.
Eventually, Central brought down Hardin 23-24. Unlike the third set, the fourth would have no such burst of energy. 
“We could have been so much more aggressive,” Ashley said.
“They got really timid and scared to make a mistake,” Moullet added. “They were afraid to lose and that’s how you play when you’re afraid to lose.”
Final score for the fourth set was 8-25.
Setters Shea Esp and Sophia Old Crow helped the Ladies with all of the match’s assists at 15 and 10 respectively for a total of 25. Libero Katie Murdock and middle hitter Natalie Edgar, in turn, kept the ball up with the most digs at 27 and 14 of 77. Finally, Ashley and middle hitter Mariah Simmons served the ball for a point once each for a team total of 2.
Simmons and right hitter Imani Kindness scored the most recorded blocks for the match though, according to Moullet, the recordings are inaccurate at 11 and 5.5 respectively.
Saturday’s Senior Night match with Miles City, according to Moullet, was different than the usual matches of that sort. The team didn’t “fall apart,” she said, as it had for Senior Nights in previous years. Rather, they were “all business.”
Miles City had 95 digs to Hardin’s 42, as the Cowgirls had difficulty returning the Ladies’ serves and spikes.
“This year, we were excited to play,” Ashley said. “It was a change in attitude, I think.”
According to Moullet, though they lost the second set with Miles City, they almost came back and won it. From there, the Ladies carried through on the momentum gained and took the next two sets, winning the overall match.
“We played really hard and we didn’t back down like usual,” Demi said. “We just kept going.”
Final scores for the Miles City match are 25-23, 16-25, 25-21 and 25-13.
Ashley hit the most kills against Miles City with 21 of 36 total. She also had a three-way tie for the most aces with Esp and Murdock at 2 of the team’s 8 total. Esp and Old Crow were the top players for assists with 19 and 12 respectively of 36. Murdock hit most of the team’s 42 digs at 15. Finally, Kindness deflected the ball for 4.5 of the team’s 9 total blocks.
The Ladies will be playing in Glendive on Friday and starting divisionals on Thursday, Nov. 3.