The Choteau High School Lady Bulldogs swept the Joliet J-Hawks in loser-out action Friday morning in the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse on the Montana State University campus in Bozeman. The Choteau girls, with one loss in the tournament, will play a very familiar foe, Fairfield, at 2 p.m. This will be the sixth time this season these two Northern B powerhouses will meet. Choteau leads the series, 5-0, but Coach Courtney Bake’s Fairfield girls have been close in every match and are playing well in the post-season.
The Choteau girls had to fight for every point against Joliet, the third-seeded team from the South. As they did in the first match of the tournament, the Choteau girls battled on serve-receive and with service errors, forcing Coach Ann Funk to change up her serving rotations with Jessie Henderson, Emma Gunderson and Blake Zwerneman all coming in to serve for regular starters, along with Abby McCollom, who regularly rotates in to serve.
In the first set, Joliet jumped out to a 5-1 lead, scoring on a series of big kills, including kills right down the sideline that the Choteau girls struggled to defend. But the Lady Bulldogs worked their way back into the set on kills and blocks by sophomore Ellie Lee, solid serving by juniors Nicole Krone, Christine Funk and senior Michaela Gunderson and kills by senior Anna Jamison. Choteau tied the set, 8-8, on an ace by Gunderson and went ahead, 10-8, on a pair of Jamison kills.
Joliet pulled ahead though and led 21-16 when Choteau earned sideout on a block by Ellie Lee. Trailing, 17-21, with Michaela Gunderson serving, Choteau scored on a kill by Jamison and a net touch, to narrow the deficit, 19-21. A service error gave Joliet sideout, and the Hawks increased their lead, 22-19, and pulled ahead to 23-21 on yet another Choteau service error.
Krone came up with a huge kill, and at 22-23, freshman setter Emma Gunderson rotated in to serve. She tied the score, 23-23, on an ace and Choteau took the lead, 24-23, on a Krone kill off Emma Gunderson’s set. Joliet put down a big kill to tie the set, 24-24, but then a service error of their own gave Choteau the 25-24 lead and Henderson rotated in to serve a whopper: her net-skimming service ace won the set, 26-24.
In the second set, the Choteau girls passed well, didn’t struggle on serve receive and kept Joliet off its game, capitalizing on hitting errors, net touches and service errors. Choteau’s starting setter senior Katie Bieler set well for her hitters and had several phenomenal saves at the net to keep Choteau’s momentum. The score was tied only once, 1-1, and then Choteau took the lead and never let the Hawks back in, winning the set, 25-20, with Choteau’s last point a big kill by Krone.
Fighting elimination in the third and deciding set, the Joliet girls minimized their errors and put Choteau on the defensive, jumping out to a 5-0 lead early and keeping the lead through much of the set. The Choteau girls kept hustling though and with Emma Gunderson serving, reeled off three points on a Joliet error, a kill by senior Delaynie Beadle and a block by Krone to draw within two points at 11-13.
Choteau earned sideout on a hitting error and with Henderson serving scored on an ace and a kill by Krone to tie the set, 14-14. The lead changed four more times when Choteau tied it again at 17-17 on a service error.
Sophomore Christine Funk rotated back to serve and served five points as Choteau scored on an ace, two blocks by Lee, a kill by Michaela Gunderson and a hitting error to take the lead, 22-17.
Joliet landed a kill to stop Funk’s serve and put up another point, 18-22, but Michaela Gunderson’s timely kill got the serve back for Choteau and, leading 23-18, the Choteau girls scored the final two points on Michaela Gunderson’s serve with both points scored by Jamison’s cross-court kills.
Choteau def. Joliet, 26-24, 25-20, 25-18
Choteau — Aces 8 (Jessie Henderson 4, Emma Gunderson 2); kills 42 (Anna Jamison 11, Nicole Krone 10); assists 35 (Katie Bieler 29); blocks 9 (Ellie Lee 6, Krone 3); digs 78 (Christine Funk 25, Michaela Gunderson 14).
Joliet — Aces 4 (Shayla Webber 1, Merrin Schwend 1, Brooke Miller 1, Joelle Luoma 1); kills 31 (Skyler Wright 9, Makenna Bushman 7, Luoma 6, Webber 6); assists 29 (Webber 15, Schwend 10); blocks 5 (Bushman 3, Wright 1); digs 79 (Bushman 19, Webber 17, Wright 17).