Two sets into Friday’s Class A State Tournament match against Libby, the Lady Bulldogs looked like they weren’t done yet.
After falling to Belgrade 3-0 the previous day, Whitefish was up 2-0 over the Lady Loggers in the loser out game at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse in Bozeman.
Then Libby got going.
The Loggers picked up a huge 25-16 third set victory before putting Whitefish away for good in the final two sets 25-19 and 15-5.
Head coach Addy Connelly said that game came down to Libby getting hot and her team being unable to respond.
“They just got on a roll,” she said. “Their hitters started taking care of the ball. They got some blocks on us, and that’s always a test of the mental game when they get blocks — what do you do, swing it again, tip? — so we just started playing a little more timid. They took us out of our game and started rolling into theirs. That’s so much of what volleyball is, a game of momentum.”
Early in the tournament the Lady Dogs got rolled by Belgrade 3-0 to open state play.
Cailyn Ross had 14 of the team’s 31 kills, as well as three of five blocks.
Whitefish got back at it the next day with a tough five-set win over Glendive.
The Lady Dogs pulled out a close 15-12 final set to stay alive in the tournament. Ross racked up 24 kills and six blocks in that game. Serena Hemmingson and Becca Catina left their mark as well, with Hemmingson leading with 27 digs and Catina with 25 assists.
Despite the result, Connelly said she saw some big positives on the court.
“We had some great highlights to the tournament. It was great to see us come out and get ahead 2-0 against Libby and fight hard in those games that we had to go five in,” she said. “That’s a tough thing to do, that’s something we’ve been working on and it shows a lot of growth.”
“Between everything that happened throughout the season, it’s a versatile bunch of girls, just being able to fight through. It speaks a lot to their character — volleyball is so much more than a game. That perseverance and being adaptable, those are life skills they can take with them from the future,” she added.
This was the final match for the team’s seniors — Ross, Catina, Hemmingson and Anissa Brown.
While losing those four core players will have a big impact on the team moving forward, Connelly said it was good to get her younger players state experience.
Moving ahead, it’s their team, she said.
“The last thing we said when we left the locker room is, ‘Alright, your season starts now, those of you that are juniors, you’re now seniors. How are you going to lead your team?’”
Thursday, Nov. 9
Belgrade def. Whitefish 25-17, 25-15, 25-23
Kills — Whitefish 31 (Cailyn Ross 14), Belgrade 32 (Bailey Christensen 13). Blocks — Whitefish 5 (Ross 3), Belgrade 8 (Gilbertson 3). Digs — Whitefish 68 (Serena Hemmingson 19), Belgrade 58 (Taylor Christensen 15). Assists — Whitefish 26 (Lauren Schulz 12, Becca Catina 12), Belgrade 24 (Jaiden Blakely 24). Aces — Whitefish 1 (Schulz 1), Belgrade 3 (Hailey Winjum 1, Faith Eastwood 1, Blakely 1).
Friday, Nov. 10
Whitefish def. Glendive 25-22, 14-25, 25-22, 20-25, 15-12
Kills — Whitefish 54 (Cailyn Ross 24), Glendive 43 (Karsen Murphy 13). Blocks — Whitefish 9 (Ross 6), Glendive 8 (Kayla Kelly 4). Digs — Whitefish 84 (Serena Hemmingson 27), Glendive 110 (Meadow Torres 24, Thea Robson 24). Assists — Whitefish 47 (Becca Catina 25), Glendive 43 (Bailey Pearcy 30). Aces — Whitefish 4 (Ross 2), Glendive 12 (Pearcy 4).
Libby def. Whitefish 18-25, 13-25, 25-16, 25-19, 15-5
Kills — Libby 59 (Mehki Sykes 21), Whitefish 39 (Cailyn Ross 10). Blocks — Libby 10 (Emily Mossburg 5, Jessika Jones 5), Whitefish 5 (Ross 3). Digs — Libby 65 (Jayden Winslow 23), Whitefish 61 (Serena Hemmingson 16). Assists — Libby 54 (Alli Collins 52), Whitefish 37 (Lauren Schulz 18). Aces — Libby 5 (Winslow 2, Brooklyn Rainer 2), Whitefish 8 (Annisa Brown 3).