No one knew it at the time, but when Kiersten Van Kirk collided with teammate Eliana Kuperus going for a ball during Day 2 of the season-opening Choteau Invitational it was a more serious bump than believed.
Van Kirk, a 6-foot-2 middle hitter, shook it off and completed the tournament. But in the days that followed the sophomore complained of headaches and was eventually diagnosed with a concussion.
It was an unexpected development, especially considering that older sister Kellie also suffered a concussion on the second day of the tournament. The senior outside hitter was warming up with her teammates to begin the day when an errant ball hit her in the head.
“What are the odds that they are sisters and the exact same day,” veteran Manhattan Christian coach Jill Ayers said. “I don’t even know. It’s just the craziest thing.”
Still, with the sisters out of the lineup over the weekend, the Eagles cruised to a pair of District 11C victories on the road.
Christian swept West Yellowstone on Friday, 25-19, 25-6, 25-17, before beating Lone Peak in four sets Saturday, 25-11, 20-25, 25-18, 25-5.
“West Yellowstone was pretty lackluster. We did not play great,” said Ayers. “Of course you have to throw girls into a different lineup, and for volleyball for some reason one little change in the rotation really throws you off for a while.”
Rylie Thompson, Hailey VanDyken and Kuperus each had six kills to lead the offense, while Taylor DeVries dished out 22 assists and had nine digs.
The Eagles put together a better performance Saturday afternoon, but struggled in the second set with serve-receive.
“They got a couple of girls that can serve and in that one set that we lost they just pretty much served us right off the court,” said Ayers. “So it was good that we learned that we need to work on some passing skills in the upcoming weeks.”
After dropping that set the team regrouped, and Kuperus eventually finished with 12 kills to lead the attack. DeVries added 37 assists and three aces, while Maddie Liudahl had 26 digs.
“Took us four sets to win, but we played much better. The girls just kind of figured out that we got to do this,” said Ayers. “We don’t know how long those two are going to be gone, so we just need to buckle down and play ball. And they’re very capable of that, and it’s nice to see that they know that they can still play really good volleyball without their complete team.”
The Eagles capped the week with a 25-20, 25-22, 22-25, 25-17 victory against Manhattan Tuesday.
Kuperus led the attack with 12 kills, 10 digs and 1.5 blocks. VanDyken added 11 kills.
Christian returns to action Thursday hosting Shields Valley.
Manhattan Christian def. West Yellowstone 25-19, 25-6, 25-17.
MANHATTAN CHRISTIAN (1-0) - Kills: 24 (Eliana Kuperus 6, Rylie Thompson 6, Hailey VanDyken 6). Digs: 34 (Taylor DeVries 9). Blocks: 0. Aces: 10 (Hope Kenney 8). Assists: 24 (DeVries 22).
WEST YELLOWSTONE - Stats not provided.
Manhattan Christian def. Lone Peak 25-11, 20-25, 25-18, 25-5.
MANHATTAN CHRISTIAN (2-0) - Kills: 42 (Eliana Kuperus 12). Digs: 73 (Maddie Luidahl 26). Blocks: 6.5 (Hailey 4). Aces: 10 (Taylor DeVries 3). Assists: 39 (DeVries 37)
LONE PEAK - Stats not provided.
Manhattan Christian def. Manhattan 25-20, 25-22, 22-25, 25-17.
MANHATTAN CHRISTIAN (3-0) - Kills: 35 (Eliana Kuperus 12, Hailey VanDyken 11). Digs: 46 (Maddie Liudahl 11, Kuperus 10). Blocks: 6 (VanDyken 3). Aces: 11 (Taylor DeVries 3, Faith Shepherd 3). Assists: 31 (DeVries 30).
MANHATTAN (0-2) - Kills: 29 (Erika Davis 8, Amy Grevious 7). Digs: 40 (Casey Elfland 14). Blocks: 2 (Ella Halverson 1, Davis 1). Aces: 13 (Cayli Chapman 5, Grevious 4). Assists: 28 (Chapman 27).