Netters win league with wins to end season

J.P. Plutt
Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Dillon sophomore Ariel Thomas and an obscured teammate throw up a successful double block during Dillon’s Senior night win over East Helena on Saturday. J.P. Plutt photo

The Dillon Lady Beavers completed the first step on their journey to win a state volleyball championship on Saturday with a 3-0 sweep of East Helena on Senior Night at B.W. Lodge Gymnasium. The win, coupled with a sweep at Hamilton on Thursday, ensured Dillon the #1 seed at the Southwestern A Conference Tourney at Corvallis on Friday and Saturday.

“In our game against Hamilton, the girls came out ready to play and we had our best hitting game to date,” said Dillon coach Charelle Hinkey. “It was just fun. We got everyone in, everyone got playing time, and we had another good hitting night against East Helena.”

Dillon whipped Hamilton, 25-17, 25- 9, 25-12, and also swept East Helena by similarly lopsided scores, 25-7, 25-17, 25-18. The East Helena match marked the last home game as Lady Beavers for seniors Jordyn Walker, Lauryn Petersen, Sage Hansen, Ainsley Shipman and Evey Hansen.

“It is going to be huge to lose all five of them,” said Hinkey of her team leaders. “They have been great examples to the younger girls and their leadership has been unmatched. They are coachable and their willingness to learn and willingness to make changes has been huge for the team this year, and huge for setting an example for what Beaver volleyball stands for and where the program is heading from here.”

In the long term, Hinkey’s program is in good shape moving forward to next year. Both the C squad and the junior varsity posted undefeated records on the season.

In the short term, the program is heading to Corvallis this weekend for the first round of the post-season as the top-seed in a seven-team bracket. The Lady Beavers get the only first round bye and play their first match Friday at 6 p.m. Dillon will play the winner of #4 Stevensville versus #5 Frenchtown in the noon Friday match.

Dillon won the tie-breaker over Corvallis to earn the topseed. Each team beat the other on the road, and both teams lost to Butte Central to end the season at 10-2 in league play. The each won the same number of games head to head, so the tie-breaker went to most points won, and that favored Dillon.

Corvallis is the second seed and Butte Central the third seed. Central posted a 9-3 record.

Corvallis opens with #7 East Helena and Butte Central faces #6 Hamilton Friday afternoon. The winners play after Dillon’s 6 p.m. semifinal game, with the second semifinal slated to start at 8 p.m.

The Lady Beavers, should they win their semifinal game, will play in the championship at 4 p.m. on Saturday. The top four teams advance to the Western A Divisional tourney so there will be no “if necessary” game. The winner of the title game is first, the loser second.

“I think we need to not let the fact that it is tournament time and big this is, get in our heads,” said Hinkey of the mental preparation needed to experience success at Corvallis. “We also have to stay realistic that yes, we’ve had a really good season, but it is volleyball and anyone can win on any given day because we all start 0-0.

“We we have to be ready to go and earn every point. We can’t expect other teams to give it to us. We have to really come out and show them what Beaver volleyball is and that we believe in ourselves and we are ready to earn a state championship. They’re a great group of girls and it has been really fun to coach. We’ve had an exciting season and I’m excited to keep it going.”

Because of the unbalanced number of teams in the Western A (12) and Eastern A (7), five teams will advance from the Western A Divisional to the State A tournament, while the Eastern A will send four teams to state.