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Lady Bobcats battle at divisional tourney

by CHUCK BANDEL
Valley Press | November 9, 2022 12:00 AM

They battled their way out of the tangled world that is Montana Western 14C high school volleyball.

They qualified for divisionals and the No. 2 seed from the West behind mighty Charlo.

At divisionals, they ran into first-round opponent Twin Bridges, the number one seed from District 12C and the climb through the volleyball forest came crashing down in a 3-0 loss to the Lady Falcons.

But their quest for improvement and success did not end there.

Bright and early the next morning, Friday November 4th they hit the court again, less than 24 hours after their opening round loss to Twin Bridges and took on the arduous trip through the consolation round with Lone Peak the first opponent up.

No quit in the Lady Bobcats, instead they pulled it together and outplayed the Lady Bighorns 3-1, a win that kept their hopes alive. A mirror of their season.

A little more than two hours later they played in an epic playoff volleyball match against Ennis and finally came to a hill they could not overcome, falling to the Lady Mustangs 3-2 in a five-set thriller that ended their tournament hopes, but not their dreams.

Coach Kyra McElroy and crew will take up the battle again next year and no doubt surprise some folks along the way.

But against Ennis, which had earlier knocked Charlo off it’s seeding perch, Superior fell just short as their season came to an end.

The two teams came into the loser-go-home match hoping to ride the consolation train to an improbable shot at the Western Division’s number two seed and a trip to the state Class C championships this weekend.

From the opening set, this was a match-up of two evenly talented teams. Long volleys were the rule of the first set, and the match as a whole, with Superior holding on for a narrow 25-23 win and a 1-0 match lead.

But just like the ball going back and forth over the net stretched across the gym in tournament host Manhattan Christian high school, The Mustangs came back with a 25-19 win in the second set.

At that point it appeared as if momentum had deserted the Lady Bobcats and saddled up with the Mustangs. Ennis won the pivotal third set 25-14, putting them up two sets to one with energy on their side.

However, as they have done all year, the Lady Cats were able to reach deep and re-direct the fickle Lady of Momentum to their side by capturing the fourth set 25-14. That win set up a fifth game tie-breaker scenario where the opponents play to 15 instead of 25.

And just like the main body of the match, the tie-breaker proved early on to be a back-and-forth encounter before Ennis took a slim lead, then held on for a 15-10 win that kept their season alive.

The heart-breaking loss closed out Superior’s season with a 12-8 overall record in a match that featured some eye-popping stats on both sides of the net.

As testimony to their hustling, diving for loose balls style of play, the Lady Cats were credited with a whopping 160 digs, or saves, during the match, including a match-high 44 by Superior senior Payton Milender, who chalked up 44 digs in her last volleyball game for the Cats. Teammate Trinity Donaldson added 41 digs to the cause.

For the match, Superior racked up 25 kills and 22 assists to go with their assault on the digs statistic.

Ennis totaled 70 digs for the match, and had team totals of 40 kills and 32 assists as they battled the Bobcats at the net throughout the contest.

Earlier in the day that Friday, the Bobcats had bounced back from the opening day loss to Twin Bridges with a 3-1 match win over Lone Peak.

In what was a tight match the whole way, Superior took the opening set 25-22 to establish a 1-0 match lead. Lone Peak fought back for a 25-21 win in the second game, squaring the match at one set each.

Superior then won the third and fourth sets, 25-20 and 25-21 to secure the win and continue into the consolation round. And as was the case with the match against Ennis, the Lady Cats piled up some impressive “digs” totals against Lone Peak.

Milender had 37 digs and Donaldson added 29 as the Lady Bobcats totaled 130 for the match.

Junior Lanie Crabb had a solid overall match, accounting for three service aces and eight kills to go with her 23 digs.

Next up for many of the Lady Cats is the basketball season, with many volleyball players expected to turn out for the 2022-23 hoops season.

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