Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Hardin High School students line up to congratulate Lady Bulldog volleyball players after the game, including middle hitters Mariah Simmons (front) and Demi Uffelman.Setter Shea Esp (right) jumps to give an enthusiastic double high five to defensive specialist Brittney Schaff during the first half of the third set.

Lady Bulldogs recover from Sidney loss to defeat Laurel in three sets

In the wake of a problematic match-up last Thursday against Sidney – ranked first in Eastern A with four wins and zero losses – Hardin’s Lady Bulldogs pulled through the following Monday with a three-set home victory against Laurel Lady Locomotives. The fact that Tuesday was Orange Crush night, combined with an enthusiastic crowd packing the stands, certainly didn’t hurt matters.
When the Ladies left the court towards the locker room, cheering students lined up to give them high-fives.
“Our student section is amazing,” said outside hitter Ashley Uffelman, visibly happy after the match. “They keep us pumped and going the whole time.”
While Laurel was ranked last in Eastern A at the time of the match with four overall losses and no wins, both Head Coach Tiffany Moullet and her players were not about to underestimate their opponents. The Ladies played consistently strong in both offense and defense, Moullet said, which made her job both fun and easy.
Consistency has become a goal for the Ladies, who don’t want to pick up the slack from one set to the next. 
Since outside hitters were making successful spikes against Laurel instead of hitting the net, Moullet had the opportunity to fine-tune the less noticeable aspects of playing strategy. For example, she talked to the setters on proper foot placement that would allow them to explode towards the ball and prepare the hitters for a kill.
 “There were no…game-changing errors or anything that I needed to focus on,” she said. “There were just little things that we needed to tweak.”
Moullet was impressed by the consistency, especially after the game with Sidney and a tournament in Dickinson, N.D. on Friday and Saturday. The schedule, she said, didn’t allow for much down time.
According to defensive specialist Katie Murdock, during the final matches in Dickinson, she sensed the team was getting its “mojo” back, an opinion shared by Moullet and Uffelman.
“We do 3,000 times better when we’re having fun and that’s exactly what we did tonight,” Uffelman said.
“When something went wrong, we brought each other up and didn’t hang our heads,” Murdock added.
Final scores for the Laurel match were 25-12, 25-16 and 25-13.
As for the Sidney match – “To be honest, as well as they played tonight, that’s how badly they played [against Sidney],” Moullet said. “I’ve never seen any of them play as badly as I saw them play on Thursday.”
Hardin lost in four sets to Sidney’s Lady Eagles and, though three of the four ended within 2 points of each other, Moullet, Murdock and Uffelman showed no pride in that particular confrontation.
Final scores for the Sidney match were 25-12, 24-26, 28-26 and 26-24.
To the benefit of Sidney, the Ladies committed 36 unforced errors, or points against themselves that did not require their opponents’ intervention – such as sending the ball into their side of the net or out-of-bounds on their opponents’ court. As a comparison, Hardin committed 9 of these errors against Laurel, equal to one-fourth of the previous number.
“I’d like to keep it lower than 10,” Moullet said.
In the meantime, Moullet intends to “keep on rolling” and lead more matches to a Laurel-like conclusion.
Hardin’s next varsity volleyball game will also be at home on Thursday, Oct. 6 against Glendive.