Saturday, February 24, 2018

Hardin libero Katie Murdock prepares to bump a volleyball toward Sidney’s Red Devils last Thursday evening at Hardin High School.

Red Devils fall to Hardin’s ‘scrappy saves’ and ‘crazy defensive plays’

Livingston, Lewistown defeated despite post-homecoming sluggishness

It was a stat-building week for Hardin High School’s Lady Bulldog volleyball team, who claimed victory in three matches, starting last Thursday evening at home against Glendive’s Red Devils.

Hardin setter Shea Esp, who described the team’s playing style at the time as “explosive,” prepared 16 of their 25 assists over the net and helped push them forward to a win in three sets.

“We got on rolls and we stayed on rolls,” she said. “We had a lot of really scrappy saves.”

Among the many “crazy defensive plays,” Esp said, was a free-ball kill wrought by libero Katie Murdock, capping off close saves by outside hitter Ashley Uffelman, then Esp herself as she ran toward the scoring table.

In all, according to Esp, Murdock and Head Coach Tiffany Moullet, the Glendive match featured some of the Ladies’ strongest hustling this year.

Murdock was the top player for both digs and aces, with 22 of 49 and 4 of 6 respectively. Ashley and Shelby Uffelman scored the most kills for the Ladies – 10 and 6 of 26 total. Finally, for blocks, Shelby Uffelman and Mariah Simmons each deflected 1 of 3 total balls.

The Ladies’ Saturday matches with Livingston’s Rangers and Lewistown’s Golden Eagles were more complicated. Yes, Hardin won both matches, but the team was not at their best. The rush of homecoming, Esp said, had sapped life from the team just in time for them to face their opponents.

“We were kind of dead,” she said, “[during] both of them.”

By the time they faced the Rangers, Shelby had been injured and was not ready to play outside hitter. Murdock, a sophomore, was moved to Shelby’s position, a spot she hadn’t played since seventh grade.

“She did a good job, I think it was just hard for the team as a whole to adjust,” Moullet said. “I think we’re definitely better with her in the libero uniform.”

They moved Murdock back to the libero position and, with the help of strong serves from setter Sophia Old Crow, Moullet said, the Ladies shut out the Rangers’ main middle hitter and took them down in four sets. Murdock recalled watching many returns from the Livingston hitter go out of bounds.

“We basically won the match with her serves,” Moullet said of Old Crow. “She was serving like a maniac.”

Old Crow and Esp set up 15 and 12 of the team’s 27 assists. She also tied with Natalie Edgar at 3 aces each of the team’s 9. Ashley scored the most kills with 12 of 27 and tied with Edgar for the most blocks – 1 each of 3 total. Murdock and Edgar set the most digs for the match at 15 and 11 respectively.

The match with the Golden Eagles was also decided in four sets though, according to Moullet, the team needed to make a last-minute change on the final set.

Lewistown had them down 22-24. One more point by the Golden Eagles at that time would have brought the match to five sets. With their two senior outside hitters – Shelby and Aubrey Meiwald – not yet up for extended play, they needed another hitter.

Fortunately, Hardin defensive specialist Brittney Schaff, who had never played in the front row, was somehow up to the task.

“She actually did a really good job,” Moullet said. “She had zero errors.”

Moullet said she was unsure how Lewistown didn’t defeat her team, as they “were in mass chaos” at the time, but the Ladies persevered through their difficulties and took home the win.

“The fact that we’re still winning those games, even not on our good days, is promising, it’s exciting,” Esp said.

Ashley and Demi Uffelman scored the most kills with 14 and 12 respectively, Esp set up 17 of her team’s 33 assists, Murdock hit the most digs with 13 of 47, Edgar scored the most aces with 5 of 10 and Shelby returned to take the top score in blocking at 1.5 of 5.

Varsity will be playing an away match against Billings Central on Oct. 13, followed a home match against Sidney for Pack the Place in Pink Night on Saturday. Proceeds from Pack the Place in Pink will go toward the mammography unit at Big Horn County Memorial Hospital.

Final scores:

Hardin vs. Glendive: 25-16, 25-18 and 25-20

Hardin vs. Lewistown: 25-21, 22-25, 25-16 and 27-25

Hardin vs. Livingston: 25-16, 16-25, 25-16 and 25-17