Saturday, February 17, 2018

Setter Katie Murdock winds up for a shot against the Livingston Rangers at the divisional tourney. Cheerleader Hailey Cannon pumps up the crowd during the divisional tournament in Lewistown.

Lady Bulldogs suffer high stakes loss

Hardin knocked out of divisional tournament
Lady Bulldog volleyball ended on a downer this season as, despite weekly improvements, Hardin failed to make it to state.
The start of last week’s divisional tournament in Lewistown began on a promising note last Thursday with Hardin’s defeat of Livingston’s Rangers in four sets. In their Oct. 6 match, the Ladies had been the ones to be taken out in four. This time, Hardin focused on controlling the ball on their side of the court and decreasing unforced errors, which Head Coach Tiffany Moullet said made all the difference.
“We knew if we just made fewer errors than them, we would beat them,” Moullet, said “That strategy definitely worked.”
The Belgrade Panthers proved to be a stronger team buffered by powerful hitters – especially, Moullet said, their outside hitter Bailey Christensen.
Despite a close second set – 23-25 – Belgrade powered through the Ladies in three.
“We went out there a little bit scared,” Moullet said. “We should have competed better with them, for sure.”
For their last match on Friday, the Ladies faced the Glendive Red Devils who, up until now, they had managed to defeat. Hardin attempted to use the same strategy as they did with Livingston – control the ball and limit unforced errors – but they were less successful this time around.
Her team played timidly, Moullet said, which caused them “to make a lot of unforced errors.” By the fifth set, they had lost the game and their chance to compete at state.
“The stakes were high for the game,” Moullet said. “Divisionals was a heartbreaker this year.”
Though the team didn’t make it to state, Moullet believes that – overall – the Ladies improved “across the board” every single game, “from our freshman team up to our varsity.” Every week, she continued, brought the potential to working on new goals and trying new strategies.
This season, Moullet said, the Ladies had one of their best conference records in recent memory: eight wins, two losses. In addition, they were ranked second in the Eastern A conference.
“That’s the big bummer about divisionals is, overall, the season was really good,” she said. “It was just pulling that all together and bringing everyone together as a team at the end to show our improvement.”
Next season, the Ladies have the potential to bring back seven of their nine players – setter Shea Esp and opposite hitter Arena Plenty will have graduated. Two returning players will have three years of varsity experience to draw upon: middle hitter Demi Uffelman and middle hitter Mariah Simmons. Setter Katie Murdock will have four.
 “I really think that we’ll be the team to beat,” Moullet said. “I’d like to win the conference next year.”