Lady Beavers advance to state

Dillon’s Allie Morstein bumps a set during Southwestern A divisional tourney action. Dillon placed second and earned a state tourney berth. Jean Shurman/Bitterroot Star photo

 

At the Southwest A Divisional volleyball tournament in Corvallis last weekend, the Dillon girls went on a long, roller-coaster ride that took them up, then down, then up and up, before dropping them back home with a second-place trophy and a ticket for their next ride—to this weekend’s Montana High School Association State Class A Volleyball Tournament in Bozeman.

“This team deserves all the credit for not surrendering and being composed to achieve their season-long goal,” said BCHS Head Coach Angela Racicot, whose team persevered through five matches in two days.

“We were focused on our goal of playing to our potential and making it to the championship match and having the honor of going to the State Tournament.

The Dillon girls reached that goal on Saturday with a tense, five-set climb over Anaconda, 28-26, 14-25, 20-25, 25-17, 20-15, to gain a spot in the Divisional Tournament final later in the day and guarantee a spot in the State Tournament starting later this week.

“We knew that with playing Anaconda, we needed to control the tempo of the game and play until the whistle,” revealed Racicot, of her team’s strategy heading into the do-or die match with the #2 seed Lady Copperheads.

“With every time out, we stressed controlling our emotions and trying to keep an even, consistent mind set playing point by point. The girls relentlessness to fight exhaustion, push through with their mental toughness, along with their drive to win, made me incredibly proud to be their coach and be part of the experience. It was something none of us will ever forget,” added the first-year Dillon head coach.

“I think we all definitely got a little tired,” said Dillon’s Taryn Judge, “but we all just dug deep. We didn’t want to go out without giving everything we had.

Racicot thought the grueling slate of matches her team faced may have actually helped the Lady Beavers.

“The scheduling in between matches allowed us to stay focused and not have any down time. It also benefited our mind set of not overanalyzing and just playing the game” said Racicot, who served as an assistant for BCHS volleyball for years before taking over as head coach this season.

“The girls fought through exhaustion and proved they deserve to play for another week.

In addition to their all-around impressive team effort, the Lady Beavs got outstanding individual performances against Anaconda from defensive leader Judge (23 digs, 6 aces), Josee Pendleton (23 kills, 6 blocks, 4 digs, 3 aces) and Allie Morstein (42 assists, 2 blocks, 8 digs).

The match against Anaconda started just minutes after the Lady Beavs had finished off another marathon win in a do-or-die match, this one against #3 seed Hamilton.

“We really emphasized working one game, one match, at a time and playing in the moment,” revealed Racicot, whose team topped Hamilton in five sets, 25-22, 12-25, 25-20, 22-25, 16-14, to earn a shot at Anaconda.

“In every time out we talked about maintaining mental toughness and a calm, confident composure. The girls really embraced the meaning of ‘no surrender.’”

Pendleton again led Dillon at the net with another monster showing highlighted by 30 kills and 3 blocks, while Taylor Chase added 10 kills and 2 blocks, and Cierra Lamey registered an excellent all-around performance with 10 kills, 17 digs, 2 blocks and 2 aces.

Allie Morstein aided the offense with 52 assists against Hamilton, and her 7 digs also bolstered a defense led again by Judge (22 digs), along with Holly Andersen (18 digs) and Courtney Linder, who had an outstanding all-round match with 18 digs, 7 kills and 2 blocks.

The previous day, the Dillon girls swept #5 seed Stevensville in three sets (25-21, 25-16, 26-24) in the Divisional Tournament’s opening round.

“I really stressed how important the first game was to win,” said Racicot, who had watched her team stumble to losses in its two regular-season matches prior to the Divisional Tournament.

“The team was ready to compete and fight for it. Josee Pendleton, Taylor Chase, and Cierra Lamey were aggressive and smart at the net offensively. Allie Morstein distributed the ball well and spread out our offense to keep their block guessing. Our defense was led by Taryn Judge and Lamey.”

The victory over Stevi earned Dillon a match the next morning against #1 seed Corvallis, who beat the Lady Beavs in their final regular season match and won again Friday, 25-19, 25-12, 25-18.

The loss dropped Dillon into the doubl-elimination tournament’s loser’s bracket, where they had to beat Hamilton to survive to play another match, and then Anaconda to get to the final, where the Lady Beavs again fell to Corvallis.

But by then, Dillon had already earned its ticket to ride to the State A Volleyball Tournament at the MSU Brick Breeden Fieldhouse in Bozeman, where the Lady Beavs will open tomorrow at 10 a.m. against the #1 seed out of the Central Division, Fergus, from Lewistown.

“We saw Fergus at the Butte Central Tournament in October,” recalled Racicot of battling a program that beat Billings Central, the #1 team out of the East Division, at last year’s State Tournament.

“They are tough and have a winning tradition.”

Still, Racicot’s players say they are looking forward to the first State A Volleyball Tournament that any of them have had the chance to compete in for Dillon.

“All the years I’ve been playing, I’ve never been to play at state” commented Judge, a senior, who saw her team fall just two points short of reaching the State Tournament last season.

“I’ve been to the State Tournament to watch, but never to play. All the seniors and underclassmen really wanted to make it to State this year. So we’re pretty excited.”

“We had a goal all season to make it to State, now we’re looking ahead to our new goal of doing well at State.”

Her coach agreed with the analysis and the sentiment.

“We need to play assertive, smart volleyball, take advantage of every opportunity and be thankful for the experience and all of the support,” added Racicot.

“We all couldn’t be happier.”