Keeping off the pressure

Hardin volleyball team gains two wins in a ‘relaxed’ Saturday quad meet
Thursday, October 11, 2018

Photo by Andrew Turck

Hardin libero Katie Murdock passes a shot from Miles City during last Thursday’s Homecoming game as defensive specialist Kailee Blacksmith looks on. Despite their efforts, the Lady Bulldogs lost the match in four sets.

Photo by Andrew Turck

Middle hitter Alyssa Pretty Weasel prepares for a strike at the Homecoming volleyball game. According to Hardin Head Coach Tiffany Lynch, Pretty Weasel switching positions with right hitter Jonna Lind has increased the team’s blocking ability.

Though the last few weeks have been “rocky” for Hardin’s Lady Bulldog volleyball team, Head Coach Tiffany Lynch said, Saturday offered a “nice, little relief” from its recent losses when it defeated both Lewistown and Livingston in three sets.

Playing quad matches that day at Miles City’s Custer County High School was relatively low-stress, Hardin outside hitter Nicole Green added, and allowed the Ladies to focus on playing rather than performing well in front of large groups of people.

Against Lewistown and Livingston, she continued, the team had improved in shot consistency, allowing for a higher kill ratio.

“I think we’ve been really struggling with pressure, while we’re playing with big old crowds,” Green said. “It was just us in there, and that helped us calm down and play more relaxed.”

Stress was an element during Hardin’s Homecoming game against Laurel last Thursday evening, according to Lynch, who said the pressure of the event caused them to buckle. Unlike with their games against Lewistown and Livingston, she continued, too many shots were going out of bounds.

“They might not have admitted at the time that they were intimidated or nervous or scared,” Lynch said, “but you could definitely tell they were.”

Despite their difficulties, the Ladies have been adding moves to their repertoire, including one that setter Natalie Edgar called a “dunk,” where she tipped the ball over the net. Middle hitter Mariah Simmons has performed a tandem – or fakeout shot, followed by another player doing a real shot – in the past, but in the Laurel game, this move appeared especially prevalent.

Switching Alyssa Pretty Weasel and Jonna Lind to middle hitter and right hitter respectively also has continued to work well for the Ladies, Lynch said.

“They’re doing amazing; we’re getting blocks like crazy,” Lynch said. “We’re able to set [Jonna] more on the right side, which opens up opportunities for the other hitters. Now, the other teams have to watch for three big swings in the front row, rather than just one or two.”

Though the Ladies suffered six straight losses leading up to their wins against Lewistown and Livingston, Edgar said this experience will benefit them in the long run. Much of volleyball is about momentum, as Lynch has said in past interviews, and Edgar believes it is moving in their favor.

“I think that’s what’s pushing us forward to be better and work harder at practice,” she said.

“Other teams winning every single game, they don’t have much to work on,” Green added. “We have a lot of things to work on and that’s good for us.”

For last Thursday, final scores against Laurel – with the Hardin score stated first – were 23-25, 25-19, 19-25 and 25-20. Simmons and Demi Uffelman hit the most of 39 team kills with 10 and eight respectively, Edgar set 32 of 33 assists, Green and Katie Murdock bumped the most digs at 19 and 16 of 53 respectively, Simmons jumped for 2.5 of four team blocks, and Edgar and Simmons served the most aces at three and two of eight respectively.

On Saturday, final scores against Lewistown were 25-15, 25-22 and 25-22. Simmons and Uffelman hit the most of 31 team kills at 10 and eight respectively, Edgar set 29 of 31 total team assists, Uffelman bumped the most digs at eight of 34 total, Pretty Weasel and Lind jumped for 2.5 and 1.5 of 5.5 total blocks respectively, and Green and Simmons served five and four of 15 total aces respectively.

Against Livingston, final scores were 25-18, 25-16 and 25-20. Uffelman hit the most kills on her team at six of 20 total, Edgar set 17 of 19 total assists, Katie Murdock and Uffelman bumped the most digs at 14 and 11 of 49 respectively, Lind and Pretty Weasel jumped for two and 1.5 of five blocks respectively, and Edgar and Green led in aces with each serving three of 12 total.

The Ladies play away games in Sidney on Thursday and Glendive on Saturday.

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