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Lady Hawks punch ticket to state

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

Welcome to the Department of Redundancy Department, Volleyball division for volleyball.

If Ernie Banks were here, he of Chicago Cubs baseball fame who uttered the famous phrase “it’s a good day, let’s play two,” may have shuddered at the thought of let’s play three.

A triple-header is just what it took to get the Thompson Falls Lady Hawks volleyball team to the state finals via a West B Division championship and the number one seed from the West that goes with it.

But there probably isn’t a Lady Hawk complaining as they put an emphatic stamp on the West crown by beating West 7B conference rival twice in the span of four hours and earned a first round game with Townsend this Thursday at 10 a.m. at Brick Breeden Fieldhouse on the campus of Montana State University in Bozeman.

The Lady Hawks got to the championship game with Bigfork after winning a pair of first round games this past Thursday, including a marathon 3-2 volleyball slugfest with Anaconda after they had polished off tournament host Florence-Carlton 3-0 to open the tournament earlier that morning.

Those wins put the Lady Hawks squarely on a collision course with Bigfork, which beat the T Falls crew in a match of unbeaten teams to decide the regular season 7B title just a few weeks ago.

And that anticipated Divisional match happened as thought, pitting the tournament's top two teams against each other in a final round match Friday evening, which was won by Bigfork 3-1.

That loss dropped T Falls back into the consolation round to see who would meet Bigfork for the tournament title, with conditions considering the won-loss record and who had played whom.

This is likely where Banks would have gotten off the train and gone home.

But not the Lady Hawks.

Friday evening’s loss to Bigfork, by scores of 25-21, 25-13, 16-25 (TF) and 25-17, pushed T Falls into a 10 a.m. Saturday match vs Anaconda, whom they had already beaten in a five-setter on the opening day of the tournament this past Wednesday morning.

For Anaconda, it may have been a case of familiarity breeds contempt, or at least bad volleyball vibes, but the Lady Hawks this time handled them in relatively easy fashion, winning three straight sets, 25-18, 25-21 and 25-19 to set up another meeting with Bigfork as soon as the Anaconda game ended.

With both teams hoping for a title and a number one seed, the match with Bigfork had a “for all the marbles” feel to it. T Falls came in with the one loss to Bigfork, while the Lady Valkyries came in without a loss.

And it also created the scenario that if T Falls won the 12 noon game, the two would both advance to state, but a second match between the two would be needed to decide one and two seeds.

Of course it came down to the extra game, which started 20 minutes after the first matchup between the two volleyball power houses and was the third game of the day for the Lady Hawks.

First, the two collided in an epic five set match that was the epitome of high school volleyball. Back and forth net play, long volleys, solid sets and spectacular digs were all on display by both teams.

T Falls got up early in the first set and coasted to a relatively calm 25-16 win for a 1-0 match lead. Bigfork, however, regrouped and reversed the results of set number one with a 25-17 win in the second game, tying the match at one each.

The Valkyries then eked out a nip and tuck 25-21 win in the crucial third set, giving them a 2-1 match lead and momentum heading into the fourth set. It was not to be as the Lady Hawks came out swinging and tied the match at two sets apiece with a 25-14 fourth set win.

That set up volleyball’s version of the tie breaker, where the first team to 15 points takes the set.

And after a very hard-fought roller coaster of a set, T Falls emerged with a 15-12 win and a 3-2 match victory.

After so many hours playing volleyball, T Falls was faced with the task of winning one more match if it hoped to claim the West crown outright and get the Division’s top seed at State.

The Hawks proceeded to sweep the next match, winning 25-21, 25-21 and 25-21 as both teams left it all on the court, but T Falls won the title.

The wins during the tourney lifted Thompson Falls to 19-7 on the year, while Bigfork fell to 20-3, with all three of their losses at the hands of the Lady Hawks.

Both will now move on the Bozeman this weekend with at least the possibility of meeting yet again in postseason play.

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Natalie Roberts rises above the net for a kill against Bigfork in the Western B Divisional Tournament in Florence Friday. (Jeremy Weber/Bigfork Eagle)

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Blakely Lakko attacks the Bigfork defense during action at the Western B Divisional Tournament in Florence Friday. (Jeremy Weber/Bigfork Eagle)

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Avery Burgess goes up for a kill against Bigfork in the Western B Divisional Tournament in Florence Friday. (Jeremy Weber/Bigfork Eagle)

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Ellie Baxter battles Bigfork's Inga Turner at the net during action at the Western B Divisional Tournament in Florence Friday. (Jeremy Weber/Bigfork Eagle)

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