The Choteau High School girls volleyball team will see its first competition this weekend at the Choteau Invitational Preseason Tournament Friday and Saturday.
The 15-team varsity tournament will include Choteau and the other District 1B teams of Conrad, Shelby, Fairfield and Cut Bank; plus other Class B teams, Broadwater County High School, Thompson Falls, Glasgow, Three Forks, Florence-Carlton, Wolf Point and Bigfork; and Class C schools, Ennis, Manhattan Christian and Simms.
The teams will start out with pool play and will each play abbreviated two-game matches with each game played to 21 points. They will then be seeded into round robin matches, determined by total points earned, total points against, head to head play and, if necessary, a coin toss.
The top six teams of the weekend will have the opportunity for one final match on Saturday.
Admission will be charged. All-session passes for adults are $15 and for students are $12. Day passes are $10 for adults and $7 for students. Evening passes (after 3 p.m.) are $5 for adults and $4 for students. CHS activity tickets are valid for this tournament.
The first round starts at 9 a.m. on Friday, followed by the second round at 4:30 p.m.
Action starts with the second round continued at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday and the third round at 10:45 a.m. The final matches will all start at 6:15 p.m., featuring the fifth- and sixth-seed teams, the third- and fourth-seed teams, and the first- and second-seed teams.
In first-round action, Choteau will play Glasgow at 9:45 a.m., Three Forks at noon, Florence-Carlton at 1:30 p.m. and Conrad at 3 p.m.
Veteran CHS head coach Ann Funk and assistant coach Carla May are returning to work with the team. They spent the first week of practice, starting Aug. 11, focusing on the fundamentals plus defensive and offensive plays and positions.
Choteau’s turnout this year is 20 girls, down three from last year, and includes eight freshmen. The coaches will run a three-team schedule this season with some overlap among the three teams.
Choteau’s varsity squad, which lost six seniors to graduation last year, will only have one senior this year, Kaitlin Bowers. Other girls out for the team, by grade, are: juniors, Shay Stern, Anna Jamison, Katie Bieler, Michaela Gunderson, Delaynie Beadle and Whitney Durocher; sophomores, Christina McKenzie, Jessie Henderson, Nicole Krone, Samara DeBruycker and Lila Bradley; and freshmen, Audrey Hutton, Liberty LaValley, Anna Stutz, Blake Zwerneman, Christine Funk, Abby McCollom, Ellie Lee and Soren Cummings.
On Monday, Funk said Choteau’s varsity squad is fairly inexperienced with only one returning starting varsity player, Bowers. She and May haven’t finalized the varsity squad’s starting players yet and probably won’t until after the preseason tournament. Both Stern and Jamison are sidelined with injuries and won’t play this weekend.
This weekend’s preseason tournament will give the Choteau girls a chance to play a lot of volleyball and to encounter different offenses and defenses. The tournament will also give the coaches the opportunity to see what is working and what still needs improvement as the season goes forward.
Funk said the girls have been working hard on conditioning and learning their new positions.
“They’ve been working hard. They have great attitudes,” she said. Because of some summer volleyball experience, they are moving through the fundamental skills more quickly, she added.
Choteau’s girls benefited from a team camp in Utah that exposed them to some very advanced volleyball teams. All but three of the girls who are out this year were able to go to the team camp. “It’s a good learning tool for us,” Funk said of the team camp.
This year will be a test of her young team to see how fast they can advance their skills and how much they improve by the time the post-season starts.
Funk said if Choteau’s varsity squad is young and inexperienced, the girls won’t be alone in District 1B, where Fairfield, Cut Bank and Conrad all lost key players to graduation, students moving away and injuries. Only Shelby returns much of its starting squad’s core.
Choteau will run a three-team schedule whenever opponents are available. The C squad games will usually start at 4:15 p.m. with junior varsity and varsity starting 20 minutes after the preceding match ends, approximately at 5:45 and 7:30 p.m., respectively.
The girls will open their regular season on Aug. 31 against Fairfield on the road. The District 1B tournament, Oct. 27-28, will be at Choteau this year, and the Northern B Divisional tournament, Nov. 2-4, will be in Malta. The All-Class State tournament will be in Bozeman Nov. 9-11.