CHURCHILL — With sisters Kellie and Kiersten Van Kirk sitting out a fourth consecutive match Thursday night, Manhattan Christian didn’t miss a beat in it’s home opener.
Led by Eliana Kuperus and Hailey VanDyken, who combined for nine kills, the Eagles swept Shields Valley 25-9, 25-5, 25-8 in District 11C action.
“They’re working hard,” Christian coach Jill Ayers said. “There’s a lot of talent out there still and just fun to see some of the other girls really shine.”
Kellie Van Kirk, a 6-foot-1 outside hitter, and Kiersten Van Kirk, a 6-foot-2 middle hitter, each suffered a concussion on Day 2 of the season-opening Choteau Invitational Aug. 31.
There’s no clear time frame yet as to when the duo will return, so Ayers has been forced to re-tool her lineup. The veteran coach has been pleased with the results thus far.
“Confidence-wise for some of these girls that haven’t had much varsity experience, it’s so nice to be able to get them in a game like this,” said Ayers. “And then to be able to build confidence playing now, so if you pop them in a game later it’s just old hat. They’ve been there and they’ve done that.”
Kuperus and VanDyken have filled the void in the middle and both had their moments against a young Rebels squad. Kuperus finished with five kills, while VanDyken had four blocks.
“They’re doing well. They’re young and Eli’s never played there before,” noted Ayers. “So we’ve been holding them after practice giving them the extra 10, 15 minutes just with footwork. Middle is just a tough spot to learn, but they’re both learning it well.”
The Eagles (4-0, 3-0) shined throughout the match at the service line — they had just one error in 72 attempts — which kept Shields Valley out of system. Maddie Visser and Rylie Thompson both had long service runs in the second set, and Kuperus and Visser each finished with three aces.
“Great group of servers this year,” said Ayers. “I can give almost the entire team any spot on the court and they can hit it. I haven’t had that for quite a while, so that’s fun.”
Shayla VanDyken tallied a team-best six kills, Maddie Liudahl led the defense with eight digs, and Taylor DeVries dished out 14 assists.
The Eagles are back in action Tuesday with a non-conference match at Big Timber.
Manhattan Christian def. Shields Valley 25-9, 25-5, 25-8.
SHIELDS VALLEY - Stats not provided.
MANHATTAN CHRISTIAN (4-0) - Kills: 19 (Shayla VanDyken 6, Eliana Kuperus 5). Digs: 24 (Maddie Liudahl 8). Blocks: 6 (Hailey VanDyken 4). Aces: 13 (Maddie Visser 3, Kuperus 3). Assists: 16 (Taylor DeVries 14).