Manhattan Christian’s volleyball team got off to a good start over the weekend at the Choteau Invitational and then finished strong despite losing a starter to a concussion.
The Eagles placed third in the two-day event, sweeping Shelby 25-15, 25-13 in the consolation match Saturday afternoon.
The annual season-opening tournament featured more than a dozen teams, including Three Forks.
“That’s pretty much a Class B tournament. There’s only three of the 15 that are Class C teams,” Jill Ayers, who is beginning her 16th season at the helm of Christian, said. “You always get the first of the year jitters and you have some things to work out with rotation, but that’s why it’s such a great tournament. You get so much playing time in two days and you’re able to figure all that stuff out.”
Three Forks earned a sixth place finish after losing to District 5B rival Townsend in the fifth place match 24-26 and 20-25.
“Overall I thought we did really, really well,” Three Forks coach Tracy Welter said. “We definitely had rough patches and growing pains, but we also played really good at times.”
Christian posted a 10-2 record in pool play along with Florence-Carlton, which is last year’s State B runner up, and Choteau. Florence-Carlton and Choteau advanced to the championship match due to tie-breakers.
The Eagles swept the first round of pool play, beating Fairfield (21-16, 21-6), Conrad (21-10, 21-8), Simms (21-20, 21-12), and Thompson Falls (21-18, 21-18). Then they posted a 2-2 record when teams were reseeded for the second round of pool play.
Christian lost to Florence-Carlton (15-21, 15-21) and Shelby (21-10, 9-21), and then beat Thompson Falls (21-11, 21-15) and Townsend (21-11, 21-19). In the third round of pool play, the Eagles beat Bigfork (14-21, 21-16), Fairfield (18-21, 21-11), Cut Bank (21-13, 21-8), and Three Forks (21-5, 21-13).
“They came a long way from Friday morning to Saturday afternoon,” said Ayers. “It was fun to watch and they were playing well in those final games.”
Prior to Saturday morning’s match against Townsend, the Eagles lost senior Kellie Van Kirk to a concussion in warm ups. The outside hitter had tallied 24 kills and eight aces in the tournament up to that point.
“Official warmups hadn’t even started,” Ayers explained. “It was just like ball handling with your teammates, and a ball just got shanked right into her head and she didn’t see it coming. So she wasn’t prepared for it and it hit her right in the face.”
While Van Kirk is expected to miss a couple of weeks of action, her team didn’t miss a beat. Younger sister Kiersten racked up a team-high 72 kills and had 27 aces on the weekend, while setter Taylor DeVries dished out 92 assists, tallied 77 digs and had 28 kills.
“Just really happy about how all the girls just took ownership in their jobs and realized that they don’t have to do everything. They just have to do their job really well and it’s all going to click,” said Ayers. “And pretty happy with the rotations we ran out there so far. There’s always room for things changing around or whatever, but they just came together really well and it was fun to watch.”
Three Forks finished 7-5 in pool play and lost sophomore middle hitter Keaton Lynn to a hip injury early on. Welter noted she only played in the first few sets of the weekend, which led to the coaching staff trying out five to six different rotations in the tournament.
“Everybody got a lot of playing time,” Welter said. “That was really good. Lot’s of experience.”
The Wolves beat Conrad (21-17, 21-17) and Choteau (11-21, 21-9) to begin pool play, and then lost to Glasgow (14-21, 7-21) and Florence-Carlton (11-21, 8-21). Then they went 2-2 in the second round of pool play with victories against Conrad (21-15, 21-13) and Bigfork (21-11, 21-16) and losses to Cut Bank (21-10, 7-20) and Simms (16-21, 21-19).
Three Forks went 3-1 in the final round of pool play on Saturday, beating Cut Bank (21-11, 21-15), Fairfield (21-13, 18-21) and Bigfork (21-7, 21-10), while losing to the Eagles.
Erin Welter led the charge for the Wolves, tallying team-high 57 kills, 39 digs and 11 aces.
“Erin did really good. Got lots of kills,” coach Welter said. “Her serve-receive was really good too.”
Kirstin Klompien handled the majority of the setting duties and dished out 58 assists, and also had 11 of the team’s 57 aces on the weekend. The senior added 22 kills and 17 digs.
“Lots of aces,” noted coach Welter. “We’re a strong serving team for sure.”