The Choteau High School varsity volleyball team competed in Boulder last week at the Jefferson County High School’s invitational tournament, where they played six matches, winning four and losing two to finish in second place.
Choteau’s freshman, junior varsity and varsity squads will be on the road this week. They will travel to Rocky Boy on Oct. 7 to play junior varsity and varsity matches. On Oct. 9, they will first travel to Townsend for C, junior varsity and varsity matches, and will then will go on to Manhattan Christian for junior varsity and varsity matches.
The girls will be home next week with matches against Cut Bank. The girls have three weeks of regular play left before the post-season begins with the District 1B tournament at Fairfield on Oct. 29 and 30.
Coach Ann Funk on Sunday said the team remains healthy and has not been hit with any COVID-19 infections or exposures, but injuries are taking a toll. Senior utility player Josie Johnson has reinjured a preexisting knee problem and is practicing but cannot jump or move quickly. Sophomore Lily Heiberg, one of the team’s tallest girls and a sub who has been rotating into the varsity lineup to provide blocking coverage in the front row, is out with a foot injury.
The varsity team is also adjusting its lineup to respond to the mid-season resignation of the starting senior setter. Coach Funk will fill that position with sophomore setter Tessa Brownell who will work with junior setter Ella Peach in varsity matches.
Funk was able work through the changes with the varsity squad at the JCHS tournament last Saturday. The girls played abbreviated two-set matches to 21 at the tournament. They split with Joliet, losing the first set, 20-21, but winning the second, 21-17, and since the CHS girls scored more points in the match, it counted as a win for them. They defeated Shelby, Florence-Carlton and Colstrip in straight sets, and then faced Jefferson County.
Two weeks ago, in Choteau’s midseason tournament, Jefferson beat the girls in pool play and then lost in straight sets in the championship match.
At Boulder, the JCHS girls beat Choteau in pool play in straight sets and defeated Choteau in three in the championship match to win first at their own tournament.
In the championship, Jefferson and Choteau split in sets to 21 and then played a seven-point rally, which Choteau lost, 3-7.
The CHS girls are 7-0 overall in regular matches and 5-0 in conference play.
Funk has always preferred running a varsity offense that is a 5-1 — one setter and five other players, but through the years at CHS, she has sometimes run a 6-2 — an offense that revolves around two different setters, selected for what each brings to the team when they’re not setting.
This season, based on the need for Choteau to have taller girls in the front row, Funk was using a two-setter offense which now will use Peach for four rotations and Brownell for two. With the change in setters, Choteau’s hitters have some adjusting to do and the girls got a lot of court time to work through the change up in Boulder.
Funk said the girls are enthusiastic, playing hard and are determined to take any challenge and turn it into a positive. They all played well at Boulder, she said, noting that she took all the girls to the varsity-only Boulder tournament.
“As we progress through the season, we’re only going to get better,” Funk said. “The girls have goals, they are working together well. They are happy and they are ready to move forward.”
Funk said the girls played great defense at the tournament, coming up with big digs, playing well on serve-receive and putting up effective blocks against some taller hitters.
The focus in practice this week will be offense — specifically terminating balls right away on the first or second tries. She will also work with girls to continue to hone their already-tough serving as the expectation is that they will score points off of their serves.
Looking at the teams they played at Boulder, Funk said Colstrip had some big hitters who could put up great blocks and Florence had one big hitter that Choteau defended well. Joliet’s team, state champs last year, was down somewhat, she said. Choteau played Joliet first thing in the morning in the debut of the new setter rotation. Had Choteau played Joliet later, Funk said, the CHS girls likely would have won both sets.
The change in varsity setters won’t affect the JV and C squads, Funk said. Olivia Lightner and Kylie Kovatch will continue to set for the C girls and Peach and Brownell will set for the JV team and then come in to set for the varsity squad.
JCHS Invitational Tourney
Choteau def. Joliet, 20-21, 21-17
Choteau def. Shelby, 21-8, 21-14
Choteau def. Florence-Carlton, 21-10, 21-15
Choteau def. Colstrip, 21-15, 21-17
Jefferson def. Choteau, 21-13, 21-17
Jefferson def. Choteau,
21-13, 14-21, 7-3