The Choteau High School Lady Bulldogs ended their season in fourth place at the state Class B tournament in Bozeman Nov. 11-13.

The Choteau girls opened with a five-set win over Jefferson County High School, then fell in three to Broadwater High School, came back to beat Malta, 3-0, and then fell to Jefferson, 2-3, in another very close five-set match.

Huntley Project defeated Jefferson to win the state championship. Broadwater County High School took third.

The CHS girls closed their season out with a 21-4 record in full matches with their only losses to Jefferson and Broadwater. The girls were undefeated in district and divisional play.

The state tournament marked the final matches in the high school volleyball careers of seniors Emma Gunderson, Josie Johnson, Bellamy Beadle, Sadie Grove, Katie Major and Taylor Asselstine.

Coach Ann Funk on Sunday said she will miss these senior girls who have been playing for her since their junior high days. They were all leaders on the team who played unselfishly and were great mentors for the younger girls.

Others on the tournament team were juniors Ada Bieler, Ella Peach and Maili Miller; sophomores, Lily Heiberg, Tessa Brownell and Ainsley DeBruycker. The team’s alternates were Ceanna Leys and Aly Wood.

Managers for the team were Ryan Kostelnik, Violet Bechtold and Cali Armstrong.

The Choteau girls played well in the opening match of the state all-class tournament, held in the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse in Bozeman on the Montana State University Campus. The fieldhouse was divided into quarters with courts for the Class AA, A, B and C tournaments.

Choteau’s girls came out strong in their opening match against a talented team from Jefferson County High School in Boulder. Choteau had split with Boulder in the regular season, and the Lady Bulldogs looked strong and confident as they won the first set, 25-19.

Jefferson had all the momentum in the second set, as the JC girls jumped out to a 13-1 lead. Choteau’s setters struggled with the up referee who repeatedly called them for illegal contact or lifts as they set the ball. The setters, Peach and Brownell, had not run into any trouble with their setting at the district and divisional levels and worked hard to comply with the up referee’s calls, but adjusting on the fly was difficult.

In the third set, Choteau built an early lead on kills by Grove and Beadle, a block by Bieler and an ace by Peach to go up 5-1, but Jefferson fought back and tied the set seven times. With the set on the line and the score knotted at 24-24, Choteau won sideout on a big block by Bieler to go up, 25-24, and with Peach serving, Grove put down a cross-court kill to give Choteau the set, 26-24.

Again, a big momentum swing helped Jefferson out as the Panthers took the fourth set, 25-19, forcing a tie-breaking fifth set played to 15.

Jefferson opened with the serve, but Grove put down a kill to give Choteau the sideout and the first point, 1-0, and Choteau jumped out to a 4-1 lead. Choteau went on a little run at 5-2, scoring on a kill by Bieler, two kills by Gunderson, a bock by Bieler and a kill by Asselstine to go up, 10-2. The Choteau girls never gave up the lead and closed the match out with a 15-6 win, scoring their last points on a cross-court kill by Gunderson and two kills by Grove.

The Choteau girls advanced to play Broadwater County High School — the other Bulldogs team — in the quarterfinal. Choteau had split with Broadwater in the regular season, and played the Broadwater girls tough in the first set, losing 23-25. The second and third sets belonged to Broadwater as the Choteau girls couldn’t string a solid run together. They lost, 25-19 and 25-18.

Broadwater came up with 14 blocks to Choteau’s six in the match and five aces to Choteau’s two in the win.

The loss put Choteau into loser-out play against Malta, the number two seed from the Northern Division. The Lady Bulldogs powered past the M-ettes, winning in straight sets, 25-17, 25-19, 28-26. In the third set, Choteau led, 24-20, when Malta scored on a push to the sideline and, serving, went on a five-point run, to take the lead, 25-24, pounding down five kills and scoring on a Choteau hitting error.

Malta was in the net on the next play, and that gave Choteau a point, tying the set, 25-25, and with Brownell serving, Gunderson pounded down a kill to make it 26-25. Malta answered with a kill, tying the set again, and then Gunderson answered with another of her trademark high-powered cross-court bombs to put Choteau up, 27-26. With Gunderson serving, Choteau won the set and the match, 28-26, on another kill by Grove.

This win advanced Choteau to play Jefferson a second time in a match in which the loser finished fourth and the winner advanced to play Broadwater County for the right to get into the championship match against perennial power Huntley Project.

The Choteau girls played solid defense and largely error-free offense in the first set of the bruising five-set match, winning 25-20, and getting good scoring from Grove and Gunderson, playing the outsides. Jefferson’s defense did a good job of blocking Choteau’s middle hitters, Bieler and Asselstine, but they too landed kills along with Beadle, another outside hitter.

Choteau lost a close second set, 22-25, and then lost the third set in extra points, 25-27. In that set, Choteau was up, 24-22, when JC’s Dakota Edmisten stuffed Choteau at the net and then hammered down a kill to the back court to tie the score at 24-24. Bieler answered with a timely kill, to put Choteau up, 25-24, but then Choteau lost the serve on a service error, and JC scored the final two points of the set on an Edmisten kill and a Choteau hitting error to win, 27-25.

The two teams battled point for point in the fourth set with the score tied repeatedly. Choteau went on a late point run, earning sideout on a hitting error, to go up, 19-17. With Grove serving, the girls scored on an ace, and kills by Bieler and Gunderson, to go up, 22-17.

JC came back with two point scored on a block and a hitting error, but Bieler stopped the rally with a big stuff at the net, to put Choteau up, 23-19. With Bieler serving, Choteau won the set, 25-19, scoring on an ace and a hitting error.

That win tied the match at two sets each, and the two teams faced each other again in a tie-breaking fifth set. The score was tied several times when Choteau went on a little run, earning sideout on a hitting error, then tying the set, 9-9, on a Gunderson kill that rolled down the tape to fall on JC’s side. Choteau then scored on two hitting errors and another Gunderson kill to lead, 12-9.

JC came right back, scoring on a service error and a block, but Choteau still led, 13-11, on a kill by Gunderson. JC then tied the set at 13-13, scoring on a Choteau hitting error and a kill. Brownell landed an unexpected cross-court kill to give Choteau the sideout, 14-13.

JC answered with a kill deep to the back court to tie the set, 14-14, then won on two consecutive blocks, 16-14, to take the set and the match.

Coach Funk on Sunday said she thought the girls played very well in the first match against Jefferson, but that they just couldn’t put the kills down against Broadwater County. Broadwater had a height advantage, but Choteau was in every set and just needed more blocking and better execution on kills for the win.

In the Malta match, she said, the girls had some costly errors, but they were able to clean up their play and come up with the solid win.

In the second match-up with Jefferson, Funk said, Choteau wasn’t able to block as effectively and Jefferson did a good job of reading Choteau’s defense and exploiting Choteau’s weaknesses.

Funk said the girls were disappointed with where they finished, but she and assistant Coach Carla May were very proud of the effort and hard work the girls have given the program all year. With injuries and illness, Funk said, a number of younger girls had to step up and play at the varsity level to make sure the girls’ season lasted into the post-season.

Funk said Choteau’s girls were playing against schools that have more than twice Choteau’s enrollment and they did very well. “We have girls who give everything they have and they battle and do everything they can,” she said.

The whole team was affected when Katie Major’s father died unexpectedly and then, the week before the state tournament, Coach Funk’s father, Al Haas, died. The girls also battled COVID-19, injuries that sidelined Grove, Johnson and Heiberg for several matches, and the loss of the team’s starting senior setter, who resigned late in the season.

“I’m incredibly proud of them for how hard they have worked and all they have overcome,” Funk said. “I’m just extremely proud of what they accomplished and how they rallied around each other to go as far as they did.”


State Class B Tournament

Opening Round

Choteau def. Jefferson,

25-19, 14-25, 26-24, 21-25, 15-6

Choteau leaders — Aces 3 (Emma Gunderson, Ada Bieler, Ella Peach); kills 60 (Gunderson 19); assists 35 (Tessa Brownell 14); blocks 22 (Taylor Asselstine 14); digs 129 (Gunderson 35).

Jefferson leaders — Aces 4 (Rachel Van Blaricom 2, Gracie Leiva 1, Baylee Toney); kills 59 (Dakota Edmisten 32, Van Blaricom 14, Toney 7); assists 40 (Sydney Mace 20, Leiva 18, MacKenzie Layng); blocks 30 (Toney 13, Edmisten 9, Sophie Livesay 6); digs 129 (Van Blaricom 28, Emma McCauley 26, Edmisten 23).


Broadwater def. Choteau,

25-23, 25-19, 25-18

Choteau leaders — Aces 2 (Ada Bieler 2); kills 32 (Emma Gunderson 8, Taylor Asselstine 8); assists 21 (Ella Peach 11); blocks 6 (Bieler 3, Asselstine 3); digs 59 (Bieler 15).

Broadwater leaders — Aces 5 (Alleigh Burdick 3, Luci Horne 2); kills 29 (Trinity Wilson 11, Kennedy Vogl 6, Havyn Vandenacre 4); assists 27 (Emily Bird 25); blocks 14 (Wilson 11, Vogl 2, Sienna Everett 1); digs 54 (Burdick 19, Wilson 7, Horne 7).


Jefferson def. Choteau,

20-25, 25-22, 27-25, 19-25, 16-14

Choteau leaders — Aces 10 (Sadie Grove 3, Taylor Asselstine 3); kills 57 (Emma Gunderson 24); assists 49 (Ella Peach 27); blocks 21 (Asselstine 9); digs 153 (Gunderson 46).

Jefferson leaders — Aces 6 (Dakota Edmisten 2, Gracie Leiva 2); kills 56 (Edmisten 26, Rachel VanBlaricom 14, Sophie Livesay 9); assists 39 (Sydney Mace 21, Leiva 17); blocks 29 (Livesay 14, Baylee Toney 10, Edmisten 3); digs 105 (Emma McCauley 36, Edmisten 26, VanBlaricom 14).

Consolation/third place

Jefferson def. Broadwater,

28-26, 23-25, 25-23, 25-18


Huntley Project def. Jefferson,

25-15, 25-17, 25-20