Friday, March 23, 2018

Middle hitter Jonna Lind (No. 12) is congratulated by fellow Hardin players last Thursday evening after a successful kill against the Laurel Locomotives. The match with Laurel was Lind’s first time playing as a member of the Lady Bulldog varsity team.Outside hitter Natalie Edgar bumps the ball to Laurel over her head. According to Edgar, Hardin needed to account for “out-of-system” plays that put the Ladies in tougher serving positions.

Lady Bulldogs use new players, cut down Laurel in three sets

Head Coach Moullet highlights mental game, aggressive swings
After about two months on the volleyball court, Hardin High School’s Lady Bulldogs finally achieved their first three-set victory of the season, taking down the Laurel Locomotives last Thursday with final scores of 25-18, 25-14 and 25-14.
The home game also featured the first appearances of three freshmen in varsity play: Jonna Lind, Kailee Blacksmith and Rilee Green. Entering the fray in the latter half of the third set, Lind – a middle hitter – quickly scored three kills and was mobbed by happy teammates.
Lind’s “biggest cheerleader on the bench,” according to Head Coach Tiffany Moullet, was her “volleyball big sister,” middle hitter Mariah Simmons. On the court, setter Shea Esp provided the assists.
“I was nervous at first,” Lind said, “but everyone was really supportive.”
The Ladies’ passing was especially accurate during the match-up, outside hitter Natalie Edgar said, allowing the Ladies to land strikes where the Locomotives couldn’t reach. They also succeeded in accounting for “out-of-system” plays, or passes that put her team in tough serving positions.
“We were hitting the ball, digging the ball and doing things right,” Moullet said. “It felt really good to finish in three.”
Next for the Ladies were two away matches on Friday against Lewistown and Livingston, both of which ended in losses. 
The Ladies’ competition with Lewistown’s Golden Eagles was hard-fought and continued for five sets, Moullet said, highlighting a strong push by her team in the fourth. Final scores for the match were 25-20, 25-15, 16-25, 24-26 and 15-11.
To defeat Lewistown, she said, it’s important to account for the Golden Eagles’ middle hitters and knock them off balance with aggressive serves and tips over the net.
“[We] were behind the entire fourth set, but we came back and won it, which was awesome,” Moullet said. “Lewistown was really frustrated because they couldn’t figure us out.
“Then, in the fifth set, we couldn’t get on a roll.”
Keeping a strong “momentum” is crucial in the mental realm of volleyball, Edgar said. Whether a team wins or loses, she and Moullet continued, can be decided by the outcome of a strike or serve at just the right moment.
“We’ve done the math,” Moullet said. “It’s 90 percent mental and 10 percent skill.”
Their momentum was strong against Laurel and had its moments against Lewistown. In their match with the Livingston Rangers – whom Moullet considers to be less skilled than Lewistown – it floundered.
The Rangers’ sole strength was their outside hitter, Moullet said, yet the Ladies fell to them in four sets: 25-17, 16-25, 25-22 and 25-18.
“Natalie got on some rolls while she was serving, but…we just didn’t capitalize on it,” Moullet said. “Livingston wasn’t doing anything spectacular, we just weren’t playing our game.”
To win against tough teams, Moullet said, the Ladies need to cut out unforced errors – which can cripple one’s momentum – and swing aggressively and accurately as they did against Laurel.
“It’s a hard balance – if you’re swinging aggressively, you run the chance of hitting the ball into the net,” Moullet said, “but if we’re swinging aggressive, teams will struggle with us.”
This week, Moullet said, the Ladies will be playing in away games against two young and “scrappy” teams: Sidney’s Eagles on Friday and Glendive’s Red Devils on Saturday.
Hardin def. Laurel: 25-18, 25-14 and 25-14
Assists: 26 – Shea Esp 23; Kills: 30 – Nicole Green 11; Blocks: 3 – Esp 1 and Mariah Simmons 1; Aces: 11 – Esp 4 and Jade Cruse 3; Digs: 46 – Katie Murdock 14
Lewistown def. Hardin: 25-20, 25-15, 16-25, 24-26 and 15-11
Assists: 38 – Shea Esp 35; Kills: 43 – Mariah Simmons 11; Blocks: 8 – Simmons 3.5; Aces: 7 – Esp 3; Digs: 66 – Jade Cruse 14 and Katie Murdock 13
Livingston def. Hardin: 25-17, 16-25, 25-22 and 25-18
Assists: 37 – Shea Esp 35; Kills: 43 – Mariah Simmons 14; Blocks: 3 – Simmons 2; Aces: 12 – Natalie Edgar 7; Digs: 51 – Katie Murdock 15