Lady Hawks battle at state volleyball tourney
Natalie Roberts attacks the ball as Thompson Falls battled Glasgow at the All-Class State Volleyball Tournament in Bozeman Friday, Nov. 11. (Jeremy Weber/Daily Inter Lake)
Avery Burgess makes a tough play for the Lady Blue Hawks as Thompson Falls battled Glasgow at the All-Class State Volleyball Tournament in Bozeman Friday, Nov. 11. (Jeremy Weber/Daily Inter Lake)
Blakely Lakko (12) makes a block at the net as teammate Ellie Baxter (10) looks on as Thompson Falls battled Glasgow at the All-Class State Volleyball Tournament in Bozeman Friday, Nov. 11. (Jeremy Weber/Daily Inter Lake)
Ellie Baxter makes a play at the net as Thompson Falls battled Glasgow at the All-Class State Volleyball Tournament in Bozeman Friday, Nov. 11. (Jeremy Weber/Daily Inter Lake)
Avery Burgess makes a diving dig for the Lady Blue Hawks as Thompson Falls battled Glasgow at the All-Class State Volleyball Tournament in Bozeman Friday, Nov. 11. (Jeremy Weber/Daily Inter Lake)
Olivia Fitchett receives a serve for the Lady Blue Hawks as Thompson Falls battled Glasgow at the All-Class State Volleyball Tournament in Bozeman Friday, Nov. 11. (Jeremy Weber/Daily Inter Lake)
When they first distribute schedules each season there are a few places players look first.
Topping the list could be scheduled games against the big rival down the road.
But likely, at least within a short glance over, everyone looks to see where “State” is this year and when it takes place.
For the Thompson Falls Lady Hawks volleyball team, that would be a check to see when they meet up with Sanders County rival Plains, and the when and where numbers associated with State.
It is Field of Dreams meet Court of High Hopes for the volleyball players.
This year, as has been the case in many years, the season-ending tournament of higher achievement was at Brick Breeden Fieldhouse in Bozeman, one of only a few places in Montana big enough and equipped enough to handle the mass influx of volleyball championship hopefuls from throughout Big Sky Country.
“We made it to State”.
And, after battling to the top of Districts, then Divisionals, the Lady Blue Hawks did indeed qualify for State.
That required a first or second place finish in the two regional tournaments just to get to State, where only the top eight teams in each of the four classifications, AA, A, B and C, were asked to participate.
It’s a double elimination tournament on steroids.
The Lady Hawk’s first opponent this past Thursday morning in the B competition was Townsend, a town of similar size to Thompson Falls about 30 miles east of Helena.
The Lady Bulldogs came into the tourney with a lofty 20-3 season record and lived up to that billing from the start against T Falls.
Seemingly in the wink of an eye, Townsend had jetted out to a 15-1 lead in the first set and coasted to a stunningly easy 25-8 opening game victory against the Lady Hawks.
Perhaps shaken by the Townsend charge in the first set, Thompson pulled it together and put together a quick 4-1 lead in the second set, only to see the Lady Bulldogs and their quick, tall front line tie the game at 4.
The two teams traded kills and long volleys before Townsend gradually took control and pulled away to a 25-17 set two win and a 2-0 match lead.
The third set turned out to be almost a carbon copy of set two, with T Falls getting an opening lead, Townsend coming back to tie the score, then both teams swapping leads and ties until the final three points, which gave Townsend a 25-22 win and completed a 3-0 sweep of the Lady Hawks.
The loss dropped Thompson Falls into the consolation bracket with a long road ahead of them against elite competition if they were to have a shot at the state crown.
As was the case many times during the regular season, the Hawks were led in the first match by seniors Avery Burgess, who had 10 kills, seven assists, one block and nine digs, and teammate Ellie Baxter, who recorded four kills, 10 assists, one block and seven digs.
The loss to Townsend moved the Lady Hawks to a Friday morning loser-out game versus the Lady Scotties from Glasgow.
In the first game against Glasgow, T Falls took a quick, slim lead, then held on the rest of the way for a 25-21 lead and a one set advantage. The second set proved to be the pivotal set of the match.
Once again Thompson Falls held slim leads in a set that was tied 13 times before the Lady Hawks managed to score the final three points after pulling ahead 22-21. They took game two 25-22 to secure a 2-0 match lead.
Glasgow got it going in the third set, finally grabbing a mid-game lead after the early going produced another multi-set number of ties (six). The Lady Scotties then slowly but surely built on that lead on their way to a 25-16 win that left Thompson Falls with a 2-1 match lead.
The fourth set was all Thompson Falls in the early going, as Burgess and crew dominated the front line on their way to a 13-3 lead. Glasgow staged a late rally but it was too little too late as the Lady Hawks coasted to a 25-17 game four win and a 3-1 match triumph.
Burgess had a match-high 23 kills in the win over the Scotties, while Baxter chalked up 30 assists and five kills to aid the cause. T Falls also got three aces, 11 kills, two blocks and 18 digs from Natalie Roberts to help keep them alive in the tournament consolation round.
Next up for the Lady Hawks was a 2 p.m. elimination match that same day against Colstrip, which came into the game with a 17-12 season mark.
Both teams battled back and forth during the first half of the opening set, which was tied ten times, before Colstrip managed to build a five point lead and hold on for a 25-18 win and a 1-0 match lead.
The Fillies also broke away from an early tie festival in the second and third sets, on their way to 25-22 and 25-23 wins that powered them to a 3-0 sweep of the Lady Hawks and knocked them out of the tournament.
In their last games for the Lady Hawks, Burgess and Baxter once again dominated the T Falls stats. Burgess had 16 kills and 17 digs, while Baxter had four kills, 17 assists and three blocks for the Lady Hawks.
Thompson Falls finished the season with a fine 20-9 record, which included first place finishes at the District and Divisional tournaments.