The Choteau High School Lady Bulldogs are now 2-0 in conference play as they start the third week of the fall season, playing Conrad on the road on Sept. 10 and hosting Rocky Boy on Sept. 12.
The Choteau varsity girls opened the season with a pair of nonconference matches, defeating Three Forks in straight sets and losing a close five-set match to Manhattan Christian, the defending Class C state champion. Then, last week the CHS girls defeated Great Falls Central Catholic and Fairfield in straight sets, notching their first conference wins. The girls are now 3-1 overall.
This week, they are scheduled to play C squad, junior varsity and varsity matches in Conrad on Sept. 10, starting at 4:15 p.m., with the JV and varsity matches starting 20 minutes after the previous match concludes. Fans should be aware that attendance at high school volleyball matches is being controlled this season because of COVID-19 and should check with the host schools’ athletic directors before traveling because many districts (including Choteau) are only allowing the immediate family of players, managers and coaches to attend matches, or are putting limits on the number of fans visiting teams can bring.
On Saturday, the Choteau girls will host the Rocky Boy Morning Stars, with the first of the three matches starting at 2 p.m. Fans who cannot attend because of COVID-19 restrictions can watch the matches on the National Federation of High Schools Network for a fee of $10 per month or $70 per school year (www.nfhsnetwork.com). Each of the member schools receive a small portion of the subscription fee.
Coach Ann Funk said Choteau’s girls have picked up right where they left off last season, and she has a crew of juniors and seniors who have good experience at the varsity level and some strong sophomores who play mostly sub-varsity but can come in for a rotation on the varsity squad and do well. She said this allows her to get younger players experience and builds strength into the program for this year and future years.
“We have the experience and that’s huge,” she said.
Funk has two girls, Zoey Tobar, a freshman, and Ceanna Leys, a sophomore, who are still working to get their 10 practices in so that they can join the sub-varsity squads.
The coach said she is very pleased with how well her varsity players are working together, communicating and playing with energy and confidence. “You can’t teach competitive attitudes, and we have a lot of competitive kids,” she said, adding that the varsity girls serve well and that gives the offense good chances for success, but on defense they are all highly competitive. That defensive awareness and skill allowed the girls to stay in a close five-set match with Manhattan Christian. Without that level of defensive play, she said, MCHS would have stopped Choteau in straight sets instead of eking out a 3-2 win.
In practice this week, Funk said, the emphasis will be on improving the girls’ offensive play. Choteau has some girls with nice arm swings, but they need to improve their ability to consistently put down kills, to terminate those offensive plays. On defense, they will be working to improve on-court communication — a vital volleyball skill.
She said Choteau’s girls have been playing with intense energy and are just happy to be on the court playing within the constraints of COVID-19 precautions.
Choteau honored the CHS volleyball seniors at the GFCC match. They are Ellie Lee, Soren Cummings, Abby McCollom, Christine Funk and Anna Stutz, players, and manager Audrey Hutton.
Against the GFCC Lady Mustangs, Choteau’s varsity team made short work of the match. Choteau’s girls played with confidence and crippled the Mustangs’ offense. The GFCC girls on offense had just one ace in three sets, two kills and no assists.
Choteau dominated on defense too, digging up 41 kill attempts and blocking six other shots. Choteau got great play from McCollom in the back row and tough serving from Funk and sophomore Ada Bieler. Playing the outside hitter position this year, Emma Gunderson, a junior, led the team with six kills against GFCC and is proving herself a versatile player on offense and defense and can step in as a setter whenever needed.
Lee, playing the middle, was the team’s block leader in both matches last week with junior Taylor Asselstine getting a few blocks as well.
Against Fairfield, all three of Choteau’s squads won their matches. The C girls played four sets and won the match, 25-20, 14-25, 15-12 and 15-8. The junior varsity girls won in straight sets, 25-7, 25-14, 15-7. Choteau’s sub-varsity players are freshmen Tessa Brownell, Ainsley DeBruycker, Tobar, Violet Bechtold and Lily Heiberg; sophomores, Ella Peach, Leys, Aly Wood, Maili Miller and Asia Bouma; and juniors, Josie Johnson, Bellamy Beadle, Ella Stott, Sadie Grove, Katie Major and Asselstine.
Beadle, Stott, Grove, Major, Asselstine and Bouma also sub in on the varsity squad.
Choteau’s varsity girls did a good job of fielding Fairfield’s serve and had solid floor coverage for the win. The Choteau girls on offense put down 28 kills to Fairfield’s 14 and played up 25 digs to Fairfield’s 10.
Choteau got solid blocking from Lee and Asselstine and great cross-court kills from Gunderson and middle hitter Bieler. Fairfield did threaten Choteau at the net, playing defense as Coach Courtney Bake’s Lady Eagles blocked eight of Choteau’s kill attempts.
Choteau def. Great Falls Central Catholic,
25-7, 25-13, 25-12
Choteau leaders — Aces 5 (Christine Funk 3, Ada Bieler 2); blocks 6 (Ellie Lee 5, Taylor Asselstine 1); assists 15 (Funk 14, Ella Stott 1); digs 41 (Abby McCollom 8); kills 25 (Emma Gunderson 6, Lee 5).
GFCC leaders — Aces 1 (Alexis Cook 1); kills 2 (Mari Anderson 2); blocks 2 (Cook, Anderson); digs 38 (Amanda Joyce 13, Anderson 11); assists 0.
Choteau def. Fairfield,
25-14, 25-17, 25-19
Choteau leaders — Aces 10 (Ada Bieler 4, Anna Stutz 3); blocks 4 (Ellie Lee 3, Taylor Asselstine 1); assists 17 (Christine Funk 16, Emma Gunderson 1); digs 25 (Soren Cummings 6, Bieler 6); kills 28 (Gunderson 7, Bieler 7).
Fairfield leaders — Aces 7 (Cheyenne Maddox 2, Emma Woods 2); kills 14 (Maddox 4, Madison Rosenbaum 2); blocks 8 (Kyler Bake 4); digs 10 (Kinsie Schenk 4); assists 10 (Bake 5).