Sometimes the strength of a conference in high school volleyball does not really show until you get into postseason play. That was exhibited in the District 14C Tournament last Thursday and Friday at Hot Springs High School.
Charlo went into the tournament undefeated, with the No. 1 seed, and Arlee was seeded second. Hot Springs was the third seed, and Plains and Noxon had the same conference record and tied for fourth. St. Regis was sixth.
The Plains Trotters and Hot Springs Lady Savage Heat both earned first-round wins Thursday, over Noxon and St. Regis, respectively. Plains then used that impetus to knock off Charlo in four sets. In the next match of the day, Hot Springs followed suit, sweeping Arlee in three very close games. Plains defeated Hot Springs 3-0 in the semifinals to earn a berth in the championship match.
Charlo had to get wins over St. Regis and then the Arlee Scarlets on the losers’ side of the bracket, and did just that. In their third match Friday, the Lady Vikings earned a berth in the title match, three sets to one over Hot Springs.
The Lady Vikings got off to a great start, winning the first set 25-17. But head coach Jessie Butcher’s Trotters team regrouped, winning the next two, 25-22 and 25-20. The deciding set was an epic battle, with Plains capturing the District 14C Tournament crown, 18-16. It was the fourth full match of the day for head coach Rhondell Volinkaty’s Charlo squad, including the last three in a row.
Plains will have a No. 1 seed going into the Western C Divisional Tournament this Thursday through Saturday at Manhattan Christian, and Charlo will have a No. 2 seed. Plains will face Twin Bridges, the runnerup in the District 12C Tournament, at 1 p.m. Thursday in the first round at divisionals.
JESSE BUTCHER, Plains head coach, was elated with her team’s play at the District 14C Tournament.
“Our team came in the fifth seed out six (team). To come out first was a pretty big accomplishment,” Butcher said. “They definitely brought some grit. They were gritty and scrappy.
“They played really well. They definitely showed up ready to play,” the coach added.
Butcher indicated that the second-round win over Charlo was their best match of the tournament. And the Trotters were swept by Hot Springs during conference play, and they were able to pull out three close wins in the four sets in that match.
Plains’ “twin towers” — 6-foot-1 junior Kylee Altmiller and 6-2 senior Rachel Huenink — were dominant at the net during the district tourney. Altmiller was credited with an astounding 35 kills in the title match win, while Huenink had seven blocks. Haley Josephson, a senior, dished out 34 set assists. Junior libero Audrey Brown was all over the court to earn 21 digs.
At the Western C Divisional Tournament, Plains faces a familiar non-conference foe. The Trotters defeated Twin Bridges at last year’s divisional.
What’s most important to Plains at this week’s divisional? “We are going to have to eliminate unforced errors,” Butcher said, and her team improved in that aspect of the game during the district tourney.
ALISHA PABLO, who completed her eighth year as Hot Springs head coach and 15th in the Lady Heat program, was pleased with the overall play of her team during the tournament.
The Lady Heat — a team with just one senior — shook off a second-set loss to St. Regis, winning the next two games.
“We had to get all our mistakes out somewhere,” Pablo said. “It was a whole different team out there. They just played their game, they passed, they played volleyball.”
All three sets in the Hot Springs-Arlee match went into extended play, with the Lady Heat winning each by just two points.
“They just definitely had a ‘never say die’ attitude. Arlee has us at game point in all three. “We just took over. This team just doesn’t quit.”
Pablo gave credit to Plains for the Trotters’ play against her squad.
“Plains came out ready to win. They definitely dominated (the match). I don’t think our girls expected that, for them (the Trotters) to come out that quickly,” the coach said.
Hot Springs won the first set against Charlo in the match to earn a title match berth, and the Lady Vikings took the second set by five. Charlo won the pivotal third game, 25-23, and rolled to a 25-18 win in the fourth set.
“If we would have gotten that one we would have been OK,” Pablo said. “We just couldn’t put the pieces together. We came out and rolled them that first game. We couldn’t get our momentum after that second game, we were behind the whole time.”
In the Charlo match, Sage Jackson had 30 of her team’s 99 digs. McKennzie Cannon accounted for 19 of Hot Springs’ 46 kills, and Sydney Jackson had 35 set assists.
It was an outstanding effort by every player on the court during the district tourney, according to Pablo. “They all worked their butts off. They definitely left it out on the court,” she said.
The coach did single out sophomore Lizzy Fisher for her contribution, especially in blocking at the net.
Claire McAllister is the long Lady Heat senior.
“I’m very proud of her. She has improved so much,” said Pablo, pointing out that McAllister took a year off due to an injury. “It took a lot for her to come out and do the best she could … She has a great attitude, she never gets nervous, that’s what I like about her.”
Four juniors can lead the Lady Heat into next season with their varsity and tournament experience.
THERE WERE four seniors on the Noxon squad this season, with Teri Wilkinson as their head coach. They are Kristina Brown, Madi Koonce, Kali Murray and Delaney Weltz. Noxon Lady Red Devils statistics were not available at press time.
ARLEE FIRST-YEAR head coach Cortney Dix believes the quality of play in District 14C has improved overall.
“It’s a lot better volleyball now,” Dix said, and she gave credit to Plains and Hot Springs for their wins over Charlo and her Arlee team. “They came out with a lot more energy and motivation to win. I thought we were a little too relaxed. That was a big struggle.
“It was kind of cool see the lower seeds come out and fight for it,” Dix added.
(Results listed chronologically)
Plains over Noxon 3-2
Plains wins 20-25, 25-21, 25-18, 13-25, 15-10
Plains stats — Aces: 10 (Emma Morgan 4). Assists: 30 (Haley Josephson 17). Blocks: 14 (Rachel Huenink 7). Kills: 42 (Kylee Altmiller 18, Huenink 16). Digs: 56 (Audrey Brown 18).
Hot Springs over St. Regis 3-1
Hot Springs wins 25-11, 15-25, 25-9, 25-7
Hot Springs stats — Aces: 12 (Katelyn Christensen 4). Assists: 32 (Sydney Jackson 23). Blocks: 8 (2 with 3). Kills: 33 (McKennzie Cannon 12). Digs: 37 (Sydney Jackson 9).
Plains over Charlo 3-1
Plains wins 27-25, 20-25, 25-20, 25-23
Plains stats — Aces: 7 (Dakota Butcher 2, Altmiller 2, Josephson 2). Assists: 31 (Josephson 22). Blocks: 12 (Huenink 8). Kills: 38 (Huenink 16, Altmiller 15). Digs: 50 ( Brown 22).
Hot Springs over Arlee 3-0
Hot Springs wins 26-24, 29-27, 26-24
Hot Springs stats — Aces: 11 (Sage Jackson 3). Assists: 26 (Sydney Jackson 24). Blocks 14 (Liz Fisher 7). Kills: 30 (McKennzie Cannon 11). Digs: 99 (Sage Jackson 25).
Arlee over Noxon 3-1 (loser out)
Arlee wins 25-13, 20-25, 25-23, 25-17
No stats available
Charlo over St. Regis 3-0 (loser out)
Charlo wins 25-14, 25-12, 25-11
Charlo stats — Aces: 16 (Bella Hawk 6). Assists: 26 (Teaira Truman 25). Blocks: 3 (Kira McPhail 2). Kills: 27 (Kaitlyn Cox & Hawk 7). Digs: 39 (Allie Delaney 9).
Plains over Hot Springs 3-0
Plains wins 25-13, 25-15, 25-23.
Plains stats — Aces: 5 (Morgan 2). Assists: 19 (Josephson 12). Blocks: 9 (Altmiller 6). Kills: 29 (Altmiller 11). Digs: 31 (Brown 12).
Hot Springs stats — Aces: 6 (Sydney Jackson 3). Assists: 15 (Sydney Jackson 13). Blocks: 8 (Cannon 5). Kills: 17 (Cannon 5). Digs: 51 (Sydney Jackson 11).
Charlo over Arlee 3-1 (loser out)
Charlo wins 25-15, 17-25, 28-26, 25-23
No stats available
Charlo over Hot Springs 3-1 (loser out)
Charlo wins 12-25, 25-20, 25-23, 25-18
Hot Springs stats — Aces 4 (Sydney Jackson 2). Assists: 39 (Sydney Jackson 35). Blocks 6 (Cannon 6). Kills: 46 (Cannon 19). Digs: 99 (Sage Jackson 30).
Plains over Charlo 3-2
Plains wins 17-25, 25-22, 25-20, 20-25, 18-16
Plains stats — Assists: 49 (Josephson 34). Blocks: 13 (Huenink 7). Kills: 57 (Altmiller 35). Digs: 69 (Brown 21).
Charlo stats — Assists: 32 (Truman 30). Blocks: 6. Kills: 40 (Cox 16). Digs: 40 (Cox 24).