CHURCHILL — For the first time since they began hosting a tournament in 2007, Manhattan Christian won its own invitational Saturday.
The Eagles finished first in Pool A and then won three bracket play matches en route to winning the title. That includes a victory against Class B Townsend in the championship.
“That’s the first time we’ve won our tournament, so that’s exciting,” veteran Christian coach Jill Ayers said. “We’ve always been right there at the end, so that was fun. It was exciting.”
Manhattan also fared well at the tournament, placing third in Pool B after losing just two sets by a total of two points. Then the Tigers lost in the first round of bracket play to Townsend.
The teams actually split the match — Manhattan won the first set 25-23 and Townsend won the second 25-16 — but the Bulldogs advanced based on total points scored.
“We came into bracket play with high energy and amazing defense,” Manhattan coach Charli Chapman said. “Set two in that match was the complete opposite. We passed very poorly in both receive and defense. That made it difficult to get momentum going.”
In pool play, which was one set to 25, Christian notched victories against Whitehall (25-19), Drummond (25-9), Ennis (25-20), Townsend (25-17), and White Sulphur Springs (25-14). The lone loss was to Charlo (21-25).
While scores were not provided, the Eagles then beat Granite, Red Lodge and Townsend in bracket play. Ayers was pleased with how her team fought through adversity throughout the day.
“What I’m really seeing out of them is that they’re not afraid to have to chip away and come back. Before they’d get down a few points and you could just kind of see them lose it,” she said. “This year they’ve had to come back several times and you just see them buckle down and just really go to work. They just chip away one point at a time and they’ve done that several times in the last few weeks.”
Taylor DeVries led the Eagles on the day with 18 kills, 16 aces, 36 digs and 97 assists. Hailey VanDyken and Rylie Thompson had 17 and 16 kills, respectively, while Maddie Liudhal and Eliana Kuperus combined for 88 digs.
Manhattan notched pool play victories against Shields Valley (25-15), Gardiner (25-21), Twin Bridges (25-16), and Granite (25-20). The losses were to Red Lodge (24-25) and Lone Peak (24-25).
Cayli Chapman dished out 72 assists and had 18 digs for the Tigers, while Casey Elfland had 13 aces and Amy Grevious had 36 digs.
“Oliviah Westervelt was a consistent force in the front row,” noted coach Chapman. “She swung for 35 kills on the day. Major impact player.”
Prior to the tournament, Christian outlasted Gardiner in a District 11C clash Oct. 3 to remain unbeaten conference. Kuperus and VanDyken each had 12 kills in the 25-21, 25-18, 21-25, 19-25, 15-12 victory.
“I think the thing that won that (match) was the team camaraderie and let’s get to work, and just one point at a time,” said Ayers. “And that’s what they did.”
DeVries finished with 25 digs, 34 asssits and three aces, while Liudahl had 14 digs and three aces.
“I think we were down 10-8 in that last set and we had to come back and win that one,” said Ayers. “But great serving that night. We served 96 percent.”
The Eagles (9-0) capped a busy week of action with a 26-24, 25-13, 25-12 sweep of Three Forks on Tuesday. Kiersten Van Kirk returned to the lineup following a concussion to tally a match-high 14 kills, 10 digs and a block.
Three Forks (3-5) was led by Erin Welter, who finished with 12 digs and six kills. Kirstin Klompien chipped in with 10 digs and 10 assists.
Christian returns to action Friday hosting Lone Peak before traveling to Jefferson on Monday. Manhattan travels to Whitehall Thursday.
Manhattan Christian def. Gardiner 25-21, 25-18, 21-25, 19-25, 15-12.
MANHATTAN CHRISTIAN (8-0) - Kills: 43 (Eliana Kuperus 12, Hailey VanDyken 12). Digs: 84 (Taylor DeVries 25, Maddie Liudhal 14). Blocks: 6 (VanDyken 2). Aces: 6 (DeVries 3, Liudahl 3). Assists: 37 (DeVries 34).
GARDINER (6-2) - Kills: 45 (Josie Thomas 14). Digs: 127 (Kersey Blackford n/a). Blocks: 5 (Kynda Long 3). Aces: 10 (Lanie Powell n/a). Assists: 45 (Thomas 22).
Manhattan Christian def. Three Forks 26-24, 25-13, 25-12.
THREE FORKS (3-5) - Kills: 17 (Erin Welter 6). Digs: 64 (McKenzie Feddes 15, Welter 12). Blocks: 0. Aces: 6 (Peyton Page 3). Assists:: 16 (Kirstin Klompien 10).
MANHATTAN CHRISTIAN (9-0) - Kills: 32 (Kiersten Van Kirk 14). Digs: 52 (Taylor DeVries 11). Blocks: 2 (Eliana Kuperus 1, Van Kirk 1). Aces: 5 (5 with 1). Assists: 27 (DeVries 23).