The Choteau High School Lady Bulldogs volleyball team will open the all-class state volleyball tournament in Bozeman on Nov. 11 at 10 a.m. against the Jefferson County High School spikers, the second seed from the Southern Division.
The CHS girls won the Northern B Division championship last weekend in Glasgow, defeating Harlem and Malta in straight sets, then winning a five-set nail-biter with Glasgow in the semifinal, and sweeping Glasgow, 3-0, in the championship match.
The Choteau girls are now 19-2 in full matches (not including abbreviated matches played in round robin tournaments). Their only losses are to Class B Broadwater County High School and Class C Manhattan Christian. In abbreviated match play at mid-season tournaments, Choteau has split with Jefferson.
In addition to Choteau, the other teams competing in the state tournament are Thompson Falls, first out of the West and Florence-Carlton, second out of the West; Huntley Project, first out of the South, Jefferson, second out of the South and Broadwater, third out of the South; and Glasgow, second out of the North and Malta, third out of the North.
CHS head coach Ann Funk on Sunday said she expects a tough opening match against the Jefferson County High School girls from Boulder. In Choteau’s mid-season tournament, the Lady Bulldogs defeated Jefferson for the championship. A week later, at Boulder for the Panthers’ mid-season tournament, Choteau was playing with a new setter-scheme and Jefferson defeated Choteau in that tournament’s championship.
Jefferson and most of the other teams at the state tournament have a height advantage over Choteau’s players. The CHS girls have worked all season to put together a court defense that makes up for their lack of height at the net.
Despite that deficit, Funk said, Choteau’s girls have played or watched play all the teams at state except Huntley Project, and that previous play gives the girls a good idea of what will be coming at them on the state court in the Montana State University Brick Breeden Field house.
She said Jefferson has two key offensive players that are responsible for most the team’s kills. Choteau’s girls will have to effectively block to shut those players down and will need to run an aggressive offense that pulls the Jefferson girls out of position and allows Choteau to put kills down.
Funk said the girls were elated with their championship win at the divisional tournament and are looking forward to playing at the state level. “They are a great team,” she said, and the state tournament gives them all one last weekend to be the best team that they can be.
She said that these girls at the start of the season were not close and she knew they would need to work hard on communication and trust building on the court. Since the start of the season, they have weathered COVID-related absences, several injuries, the loss of their starting setter and the death of libero Katie Major’s father. They have come together and bonded and found each other through the adversity of this year, Funk said.
In last week’s divisional tournament, the Choteau girls opened with a three-set win over Harlem and then handled Malta in three straight sets as well. Neither Harlem nor Malta was able to handle Choteau’s explosive offense and the girls’ scrappy defense prevented the other teams from running their offense effectively.
Choteau got solid play from all its starters and Funk was able to sub in less-experienced players Maili Miller and Ainsley DeBruycker to give them more experience.
Funk played all her seniors — Emma Gunderson, Josie Johnson, Bellamy Beadle, Sadie Grove, Major and Taylor Asselstine. Tessa Brownell, a sophomore, and Ella Peach, a junior, shared setting duties, and middle hitter Ada Bieler, a junior, and Lily Heiberg, a sophomore, all saw solid playing time.
Choteau was tested in the semifinal match against Glasgow, the number one seed from District 2B. Glasgow had a height advantage in this match, played on the Scotties’ home court.
The Choteau girls waltzed out to a first-set win, leading 19-1 at one point, and winning, 25-7, as their hitting and serving overwhelmed the Glasgow girls. The momentum then flipped to Glasgow as Choteau struggled on serve-receive at times and Glasgow’s hitters found the holes in Choteau’s defense. Choteau lost the second and third sets.
In the fourth set, Glasgow opened with the serve and the two teams played point for point early, then Choteau earned sideout on a hitting error at 3-3, and Gunderson rotated back to serve and Choteau took the lead, 4-3 on a shank off Gunderson’s serve and 5-3 on a lift call. The Choteau girls never let Glasgow lead again though Glasgow did threaten. Down, 14-21, Glasgow got sideout on a big cross-court kill, and then reeled off three points, scoring on two kills and a lift to trail, 18-21.
The set remained close with Choteau leading, 22-20, when Bieler came up with a big block to stop Glasgow from scoring and give the Bulldogs the point and the serve. Up, 23-20, Choteau closed out the set, scoring on kill by Asselstine and a passing error on Glasgow’s side of the net to win the set. 25-20.
Choteau won the toss for the serve in the fifth set and Bieler rotated back to serve and the Choteau girls went up 6-0, scoring on an ace, a shank off a serve and kills by Gunderson, Grove and Asselstine.
Glasgow drew to within one at 8-9, but couldn’t string together a run. Bieler put down a kill to give Choteau the serve at 11-9, and Grove rotated back to serve. Choteau reeled off four points, scoring on a net call, two Bieler kills and a hitting error to win the set and the match, 15-9.
The Choteau girls won the five-set match despite 12 service errors, an uncommonly high number, and a problem that carried into the championship match, in which they had 10 service errors.
In the championship match, Glasgow battled Choteau point for point and took the lead, 10-6, early. Choteau fought back and tied the score, 13-13, on kill by Asselstine, but neither team could get a run together. The score was tied 14-14, 15-15 and 16-16. Trailing late in the set, Glasgow got the serve on a big kill and at 19-21 went on a run, scoring on a net touch, a kill to the back corner, a Choteau error, a block and a hitting error, to lead, 24-21.
Brownell set Bieler and she pounded down a kill and rotated back to serve. The girls scored on two points off Bieler’s tough serves, on a lift call and Asselstine pounded down a kill to give Choteau the 26-24 win.
The Choteau girls trailed early in the second set when Brownell rotated back to serve and the girls scored three quick points to tie the set, 14-14, scoring on a lift call, an ace and a block by Asseslstine. The score was tied again at 15-15 before Choteau pulled ahead again.
Another kill by Asselstine gave Choteau the serve at 18-16, and with Asselstine serving, Choteau scored seven consecutive points on kills by Grove, Beadle, Gunderson and a block by Bieler and an ace and an unreturned serve, to win the set, 25-16.
In the third set, as Glasgow fought to stay in the match, the score was again tied several times. Trailing 16-17, Choteau got a big kill by Beadle that landed on the back court line to give Choteau a point tying the set, 17-17. With Asselstine serving, Choteau took the lead, 19-17. Glasgow fought back and tied the score again at 19-19, 21-21, 22-22. Bieler put down a kill to put Choteau up, 23-22, and rotated back to serve. The girls won on kills by Gunderson and Asselstine, 25-22.
Funk said the semifinal match with Glasgow was fun and came down to the two coaches using everything they had to stop each other’s momentum. She said Glasgow played very well on defense against the Choteau girls, but the Choteau girls were able to persevere, stay with their game plan and come up with the win.
In the championship match, she said, the Glasgow girls did not play with the same intensity on offense as they chipped and sent roll shots and freeballs over the net in a tentative manner. Choteau’s girls recognized that and began drilling down on holes in Glasgow’s coverage to come up with points.
She said Choteau’s experience playing tough teams like Jolie, Florence-Carlton and Manhattan Christian gave Choteau a better ability to stand firm under pressure and come up with the win.
She said she hopes the experience at divisional will give Choteau’s younger and less experienced girls an idea of what it will be like at the state tournament and that the whole team takes away from the divisional that they can come back and win even if they get down.
Funk said the the coaches, managers and players all want to thank CHS music teacher Lorran Depner and the CHS Pep Band for all their support during the tournament. “It meant the world,” Funk said, adding that her favorite picture from the tournament is one with all the pep band members and the volleyball players together with the divisional championship trophy. “It was the coolest thing,” Funk said. “It was that school spirit and that’s what it’s about.”
The girls were really happy. It was fun to have the pep band. I want to give a shout-out to Mrs. Depner and the band. The highlight of my time was the photo of the pep band and our team together on the court with the trophy. “It was the coolest thing. It was that school spirit and that’s what it’s about.”
“It meant the world.” Those pep band members were unbelievable. How they cheered and how supportive they were.
Choteau def. Harlem,
25-7, 25-7, 25-12
Choteau leaders — Aces 18 (Taylor Asselstine 9); blocks 8 (Ada Bieler 4); assists 14 (Tessa Brownell 7); digs 47 (Emma Gunderson 9); kills 28 (Gunderson 8).
Harlem leaders — Unavailable.
Choteau def. Malta,
25-13, 25-21, 25-15
Choteau leaders — Aces 8 (Ada Bieler 3); blocks 11 (Bieler 4, Lily Heiberg 4); assists 21 (Ella Peach 10); digs 61 (Bieler 15); kills 27 (Emma Gunderson 10).
Malta leaders — Aces 4 (Rylee Hines 2); blocks 7 (Skylie Lefdahl 3, Allison Kunze 3); assists 24 (Lauren Tuss 11); digs 69 (Kunze 14); kills 24 (Kunze 8).
Choteau def. Glasgow,
25-7, 13-25, 23-25, 25-20, 15-9
Choteau leaders — Aces 6 (Ada Bieler 3); blocks 15 (Bieler 7); assists 29 (Tessa Brownell 16); digs 101 (Bieler 26); kills 45 (Taylor Asselstine 13).
Glasgow leaders — Aces 9 (Klaire Krumweide 4); blocks 30 (Krumweide 12, Carly Nelson 12); assists 38 (Daley Aune 39); digs 103 (Tyann Graham 29); kills 42 (Abrianna Nielsen 15).
Choteau def. Glasgow,
26-24, 25-16, 25-22
Choteau leaders — Aces 10 (Taylor Asselstine 4); blocks 13 (Asselstine 8); assists 30 (Tessa Brownell 19); digs 67 (Sadie Grove 16); kills 38 (Asselstine 11).
Glasgow leaders — Aces 3 (Daley Aune, Carly Nelson, Klaire Krumweide); blocks 17 (Nelson 10); assists 18 (Aune 13); digs 83 (Blaire Westby 22); kills 20 (Tyann Graham 4, Tatum Nyquist 4, Abrianna Nielsen 4, Krumweide 4).