Bulldog varsity advances to state tourney

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Photo by Jamie Crisafulli

Middle hitter Mariah Simmons jumps to make a block against Billings Central during the Eastern Class A Divisional Tournament last Thursday. The Bulldogs took that match to five sets.

Photo by Jamie Crisafulli
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Senior Demi Uffelman drives the ball against her opponents, the Billings Central Rams, at Glendive.

The Hardin Lady Bulldog volleyball team played a flurry of matches this past weekend at Glendive. Other than a pair of losses to their rivals, the Billings Central Rams, they won every match, enough victories to make it all the way to the state finals.

“It was a really great tournament,” said Head Coach Tiffany Lynch on Tuesday afternoon during practice. “We got a lot of compliments on what a great tournament we had as a team, and we beat every single team in three, with the exception of Central and Glendive.”

Beating every team in three means that the Ladies swept their matches against the Livingston Park Rangers, the Laurel Locomotives, the Fergus Golden Eagles and the Custer County Cowgirls of Miles City.

“We beat teams in three that had beat us earlier in the season,” Lynch added, “so that was huge. Huge for us.”

Junior setter Natalie Edgar added her impressions of the tournament, saying, “Our season was rough. [At divisionals], we let loose. We fought. We just forgot about the season and everything.”

Junior outside hitter Nicole Green agreed: “We started playing because we love the game.”

Advancing to state gives the team another opportunity to build on their latest goal-oriented style of play.

“Our goal was to make it to state,” Edgar said, “and we had to make that goal, and we did. We did better than that, we took third at divisionals.”

The Ladies received a trophy for their third place finish at the divisional tournament, and one glance at the confusing and complex bracket system for this past weekend shows just how much of a challenge that was. Hardin had to defeat all of the other teams that suffered a loss in order to swing back around and play the heavy end of the bracket for third place.

Some of the highlights include 17 aces against Lewistown. Senior libero Katie Murdock made 18 digs against Miles City, and Demi Uffelman made 16 against Glendive on Saturday. The Ladies won that match in the morning, three-to-one, and had to go right back onto the court to play some of their strongest opponents in the Billings Central Rams.

“You know, they just didn’t really get down,” Lynch said of the tournament as a whole. “We never felt the need to have to call a timeout. They just really kind of dug in and created energy for themselves.”

The team once again accomplished the goal of beating an opponent that had given them trouble throughout the season, this time with the Dawson Red Devils of Glendive.

“We lost to Glendive both times we played them during the season and then we beat them in four,” Lynch said. “So that was pretty amazing, and it was on their home court too, so that made it even better.”

The team appears to have taken their recent success to heart.

“The whole tournament was a highlight,” Lynch admitted. “I’ve been smiling nonstop since Saturday. I think these guys have too,” she said gesturing to two of her standout players. “All season has just been a struggle for us, but one thing that we talked about was that the challenge of the season really made us a better team.”

Now, the team is on its way to the State Class A tournament that starts Thursday, Nov. 8 at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse in Bozeman. They are scheduled to face off against Libby. This bracket works similar to the last one, but with fewer teams. Only eight Class A varsity volleyball teams have the opportunity to play this weekend, and they deserve all the credit they can get.

“We’ve got goals for state,” Lynch said, summing up her interview on Tuesday, “and I know they’re super excited about that. They don’t just want to show up and get beat right away. They want to compete. They want to be there the whole weekend. I’m really excited about this group, just watching them play and come together.”

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