Lady Beavs fourth at state volleyball

J.P. Plutt
Wednesday, November 17, 2021
Senior leaders

Dillon middle blocker Evey Hansen rises up for a kill attempt while fellow senior Ainsley Shipman sets for a defensive role during a match versus eventual state champion Billings Central at the state A tourney in Bozeman. Central defeated Dillon twice during the meet and claimed their fourtth state title in five years. Dillon placed fourth. J.P. Plutt photo

The Dillon Lady Beavers placed fourth at the Montana State A volleyball tournament last weekend, their first trip to the Big Dance at MSU in six years. Dillon’s appearance included three consecutive wins sandwiched between losses to Billings Central, the eventual state champion. Billings Central’s run to the title gave the Rams four of the last five Class A crowns.

“I am just proud of the girls for coming out and battling,” said Dillon coach Charelle Hinkey. “I definitely think we had the makings of being a state championship team. We didn’t achieve that goal, but I am very proud of them for taking fourth in the state and for battling like they did.”

Dillon’s battle included a marathon day 2 scheduled of four matches in the consolation bracket, the only such schedule oddity of the four classifications at the All-Class meet. While Class C, with 79 teams, could work out a traditional 8-team state tournament bracket that ensures no team will play more than three matches in one day, the Class A activity directors representing the 23-team classification, approved the odd 9-team bracket, that landed Dillon with the four-match schedule on Friday.

According to Hinkey, the players awoke Friday between 5 and 5:15 a.m., and boarded the bus from their motel to the tourney venue at 6:15. What followed were wins over Hamilton at 8 a.m., Ronan at noon, Corvallis at 4 p.m., and the eventual tourney ending loss to Billings Central in the 8 p.m. match. Dillon beat Hamilton and Ronan by 3-1 scores and then went to war with Corvallis in a 5-game thriller, 2-25, 25-13, 16-25, 28-26, 17-15. Dillon opened the tourney with an 0-3 loss to Billings Central on Thursday’s 10 a.m. match, and closed with an 0-3 loss to Central late Friday.

“I think we were exhausted for that game,” said Hinkey of the Friday night elimination game against Billings Central. “I think we battled as much as we could battle. We played Corvallis at 4 and as far as I’m concerned, that could have been the state championship match. We beat Corvallis in five and it was such a battle between both teams.

“We went and got some food and came back and played Billings Central. We played well but coming off that huge win over Corvallis, the poor girls were so exhausted, as soon as we got on the bus (after the Billings Central match), they were asleep.”

The Dillon players found themselves in a zone and played at a peak level both individually and as a team through the three-game winning streak to fourth place. The team was supported by parents and a 30-member contingent of the Beaverhead FFA Chapter on Thursday, and a crowd that grew by the win on Friday.

As with the improvement during the tourney run, Dillon’s team grew both in size and in sophistication during the post-season. The Lady Beavers opened the district tourney as the top seed and dispatched fifth-seeded Stevensville in the semifinal round. Dillon plays in the Southwestern A, the weakest of the four Class A district’s this year. The win over Stevi sent Dillon to the championship versus Corvallis, the league’s traditional power and the state A champion as recently as 2019.

With big hitters on board, Corvallis demolished the Lady Beavers in three games, exposing a weakness in Dillon’s line-up on the defensive side of the net. With rotations on the front row sometimes standings 5-6, 5-9, 5-6, it was obvious that Dillon had to integrate more size into the front row rotation to provide a stronger block and prevent the back row from getting bombed by rocketing kill shots.

The fix for the problem gave Ariel Thomas, a 5-9 sophomore, more playing time, and resulted in the promotion to varsity action of 5-11 freshman Kylie Konen. At both the divisional and state tournaments, Konen led Dillon in blocks by a large margin.

“We have been working on blocking a lot this season and playing defense around the block,” said Hinkey after the stat of the tourney. “This tournament, we’ve got a little more height, so we have really been focusing on the block. It has slowed down big hitters a lot and allowed our defense to be able to really focus on playing defense. It has been huge for us.”

The combination of the young hitters merging into rotations with the veteran line-up worked smoothly at the state tourney and Hinkey highlighted the overall team effort as the reason for the success.

“Everyone has been able to plug in and help out and we wouldn’t be here without everyone,” said the Dillon coach. “I think the seniors realized that it was the last go round with this team and they took advantage of it. Everyone fit into a role and it took everyone on the team to get the job done.”

Dillon’s senior leaders on the court were outside hitter Ainsley Shipman and middle blocker Evey Hansen. Other seniors included setter Lauryn Petersen who worked the ball to the hitters and also played key rotations at the net. Jordyn Walker, according to the coach, hit well and passed well. Sage Hansen, the final senior, fell sick with about three weeks to go in the season and returned for post-season play. Sage found a role as a fine server and played back row.

The junior class will return with some pop. Libero Emily Matamoros was playing back row at an all-state level by season’s end and at times fell into a setter’s role and handled the job efficiently. Grayson Morstein improved dramatically during the season and played a key back row role at state. Zoey Morast, at 5-7, played an active front row, both hitting and blocking effectively.

Leila Stennerson, a sophomore setter, continued her late season role sharing the setter position and added all around skills with 6 kills, 7 aces, 38 assists and 38 digs.

“I am so proud of the team,” said Hinkey. “The freshmen, JV and the varsity team, all of their hard work this season. I am so proud of the way everyone was able to step up and the battle all the girls showed from top to bottom. I am super proud of them and look foward to next season.”

Dillon State Tourney Stat Leaders

Kills (145) – Ainsley Shipman 33, Evey Hansen 31, Jordyn Walker 23, Lauryn Peterson 17, Ariel Thomas 11, Kylie Konen 10.

Aces (40) - Ainsley Shipman 13, Leila Stennerson 7, Evey Hansen 6, Sage Hansen 5, Jordyn Walker 5.

Assists (123) - Lauryn Peterson 54, Leila Stennerson 38, Emily Matamoras 11.

Digs (283)– Emily Matamoras 70, Ainsley Shipman 69, Jordyn Walker 51, Leila Stennerson 38, Lauryn Peterson 16.

Blocks (12) – Kylie Konen 6, Evey Hansen 3, Zoey Morast 2.

Block Assists (32) - Kylie Konen 11, Zoey Morast 5, Ariel Thomas 5, Ainsley Shipman 4, Evey Hansen 4.