CHURCHILL — It wasn’t the cleanest performance to cap the day, but Manhattan Christian dominated nonetheless.
The tournament hosts needed less than an hour in a pair of matches Thursday to post sweeps on Day 1 of the Western C Divisional in the Memorial Event Center. It began with a 25-10, 25-16, 25-13 victory against Hot Springs and concluded with a 25-16, 25-14, 25-11 win against Ennis.
They Eagles (19-1) advanced to the undefeated semifinal at 5:30 p.m. Friday. They’ll face a familiar foe in District 11C rival Gardiner (16-5), which also posted a pair of sweeps.
The team’s met in the championship match of last week’s district tournament, as well as in the semifinal, and Christian has won three of the four contests this season.
“It’ll be another grudge match I’m sure. It always is between the two of us,” longtime Eagles coach Jill Ayers said. “It’ll be fun.”
Eliana Kuperus and Kiersten Van Kirk combined for 24 of the team’s 39 kills against Hot Springs. Van Kirk set the tone early, scoring on a kill and an ace as the Eagles took an 8-3 lead in the first set.
Christian pulled away with a 10-2 run in the second set, which was capped by a kill from Kuperus, and built a quick 9-2 lead en route to easily winning the third.
The Eagles got off to a similar start against Ennis, building a 13-5 lead in the first set. After Ennis rallied to get with 13-11, Kuperus scored on a kill and then added an ace for a 16-12 lead, and eventually capped the first set with another kill.
The Eagles built a 21-10 lead in the second set and broke the third set open following three consecutive kills by Hailey VanDyken for an 11-6 lead. Faith Shepard had a long service run, including an ace, midway through the third set, while Shayla VanDyken added three kills off the bench to help spark Christian in the second set.
“She’s (Shayla VanDyken) got kind of an unorthodox swing and I think it’s hard to read,” Ayers said. “She came in and really put the ball where it needed to be.”
Van Kirk led the Eagles with nine kills, while Kuperus had eight kills and three blocks.
“This one was not as clean as this morning,” Ayers said. “That second game we just weren’t as smooth as the first game. But that’s alright, I’ll take it.”
With a victory in the undefeated semifinal, Christian would clinch a second consecutive berth to next week’s State C tournament in Bozeman. With a loss, the Eagles would need to win Saturday morning’s consolation match to punch a ticket to state and reach the championship match.
“One more win,” Ayers said. “It’s nice to have that knowledge that you can still lose one — this weird sport of volleyball where you can still lose one and go on. It’s nice to know that we still got our two (losses) if we need them.”
Tigers split on Day 1 at Southern B
In a win or go home scenario, Manhattan’s volleyball team did what was necessary to extend its season Thursday morning in Columbus.
The Tigers swept Shepherd in the play-in match of the Southern B Divisional tournament to join the field of eight teams. Led by Oliviah Westervelt and Erika Davis, who combined for 21 kills, they posted a 25-15, 25-23, 25-20 victory.
Second-year Manhattan coach Charli Chapman noted her team executed well throughout the contest.
“We played great team ball we had high energy, positive attitudes, and confidence heading into that match and it showed,” she said. “Everybody did their job, everybody played their part. We had moments where we had to battle back to a lead, but we served so well in key moments.”
The Tigers advanced to a first round match against Colstrip, the champion of District 3B. They dropped a tight first set, 23-25, and then struggled to maintain consistency in 18-25 and 10-25 losses in the next two sets.
“As the match went on we just kept losing more momentum and there were some big runs. We didn’t pass very well and didn’t have a lot of offensive opportunities to put the ball away and get ourselves back in run situations,” said Chapman. “It was in complete contrast to our morning play.”
Davis tallied a team-high nine kills and three blocks in the loss, while Amy Grevious contributed 13 digs and had three aces.
Manhattan (11-10) will play District 5B foe Jefferson in a loser-out match at 11:30 a.m. Friday. The Tigers need to win three times on Day 2 of the tournament to stay alive.
Manhattan def. Shepherd 25-15, 25-23, 25-20.
FORSYTH - Kills: 23 (Jayda Carroll 6, Lyndsey Kale 6). Digs: 53 (Kylee Coates 9, Kylie Lemberg 9, Haileigh Davis 9). Blocks: 2 (Carroll 1, Davis 1). Aces: 6 (Kaitlin Kitchin 2, Coates 2). Assists: 21 (Coates 19).
MANHATTAN (11-9) - Kills: 28 (Oliviah Westervelt 11, Erika Davis 10). Digs: 54 (Amy Grevious 17, Adele Didriksen 11). Blocks: 8 (Kaitlyn Kanuch 3, Davis 3). Aces: 12 (Grevious 4). Assists: 26 (Cayli Chapman 25).
Manhattan Christian def. Hot Springs 25-10, 25-16, 25-13.
HOT SPRINGS - Kills: 12 (Katelyn Christensen 5). Digs: 26 (Christensen 8). Blocks: 14 (Christensen 6). Aces: 1 (Christensen). Assists: 11 (Sydney Jackson 11).
MANHATTAN CHRISTIAN (18-1) - Kills: 39 (Eliana Kuperus 15, Kiersten Van Kirk 9). Digs: 46 (Maddie Liudahl 13, Hope Kenney 9). Blocks: 2 (Hailey VanDyken 1, Kuperus 1). Aces: 7 (Van Kirk 4). Assists: 36 (Taylor DeVries 30).
Colstrip def. Manhattan 25-23, 25-18, 25-10.
MANHATTAN (11-10) - Kills: 21 (Erika Davis 9, Oliviah Westervelt 6). Digs: 39 (Amy Grevious 13, Adele Didriksen 6). Aces: 7 (Grevious 3, Cayli Chapman 2). Blocks: 6 (Davis 3, Kaitlin Kanuch 2). Assists: 21 (Chapman 21).
COLSTRIP - Kills: 42 (Addie Casterline 10). Digs: 43 (Baily Egan 15). Blocks: 4 (n/a). Aces: 13 (Kya Egan 7). Assists: 29 (K. Egan 15).
Manhattan Christian def. Ennis 25-16, 25-14, 25-11.
ENNIS - Kills: 19 (Rylie Robinson 9). Digs: 18 (Shelby Klein 4, Llivian Lowhrence 4). Blocks: 5 (Klein 5). Aces: 3 (3 with 1). Assists: 17 (Robinson 9).
MANHATTAN CHRISTIAN (19-1) - Kills: 31 (Kiersten Van Kirk 9, Eliana Kuperus 8). Digs: 59 (Van Kirk 15, Maddie Liudhal 11). Blocks: 6 (Kuperus 3). Aces: 7 (Kuperus 2, Liudahl 2). Assists: 29 (Taylor DeVries 24).