MANHATTAN — After emerging from the locker room Thursday night, Charli Chapman could only shake her head.
Manhattan held on to beat rival Three Forks in four sets, but the second-year coach noted her team’s struggles. The Tigers dug themselves holes several times in the match and were competing with a weakened Erika Davis, who left school early because she wasn’t feeling well.
“Went home, rested. Does not feel good at all, which showed,” said Chapman. “She didn’t play near where she normally plays.”
Still, the senior middle hitter tallied 17 kills to go along with the match-high 19 that teammate Oliviah Westervelt recorded. Led by those two, Manhattan held on for a 25-20, 25-22, 24-26, 27-25 victory.
“It could have went either way, any of the sets really. It was an amazing night,” Three Forks coach Tracy Welter said. “Couple mistakes at the end of those first two sets would have made a big difference I think. But doesn’t count yet until tournaments.”
The first set was tied at 20 before Peyton Page served long, and then Erin Welter and Kirstin Klompien had back-to-back kills sail beyond the endline. That allowed the Tigers to score the final five points of the game to claim victory.
Three Forks (3-4, 2-4) led 22-20 in the second set before the Tigers rattled off five consecutive points. Davis scored twice on kills before Abby Kabalin capped the game on a tip.
“I think set one we did a much better job of staying in control, keeping the tempo our way and just battling,” said Chapman. “Kudos to them. They battled hard and came to make us work for our win for sure.”
The Wolves nearly blew a 24-20 lead in the third set as Manhattan rallied to knot the score at 24. Westervelt had a pair of kills and a block during the 4-0 run, but after the sophomore hit long Three Forks won the game on an ace.
The Tigers’ middles gave Three Forks fits all night, and Davis and Westervelt combined for 36 of the team’s 54 kills.
“We just had to adjust on their swing. Our back row had to adjust and our blockers had to try and adjust to their hitting,” said coach Welter. “They hit very well.”
There was a noticeable drop in energy by both teams in the fourth set, which featured 17 ties and plenty of errors. Manhattan finally prevailed when setter Cayli Chapman scored on a dump and then Davis tipped down a bad pass by the Wolves for the match-clinching point.
Coach Chapman noted her team is still seeking confidence and learning how to win.
“I think sometimes we still find ourselves not really a hundred percent sure that we’re that team that can put it away in three against a tough team like Three Forks,” she said. “As much as I hate point for point and those kind of ups and downs, it’s good for us to have these right now to know that we can finish. I think a year ago we wouldn’t have finished that game.”
Despite the loss, coach Welter was pleased with her team’s effort and noted mistakes were limited.
“We tried to keep our game plan simple,” coach Welter said. “Earlier in the year we made a lot of mistakes, hitting mistakes, serving errors, and all of that was cut down tonight.”
Erin Welter finished with 10 kills and five digs for the Wolves, while teammates Macey Combs and McKenzie Feddes each had 18 digs.
Three Forks returns to action Saturday at the Jefferson Invitational. Then the team will remain on the road for a non-conference match at Manhattan Christian Tuesday.
Manhattan (7-3, 6-1), which extended its win streak to six, will compete in the Manhattan Christian Invitational Saturday. The Tigers will then play three of their final five regular season matches on the road.
“We’re going to be road warriors for a little while here,” said coach Chapman. “Which is kind of like the postseason, so you get used to being out there out of your own comfort zone.”
On Saturday, Three Forks competed in the 3rd annual Smack Down in the Big Rock volleyball tournament hosted by Jefferson. The Wolves lost all four of their matches and dropped all eight sets in which they played.
“We played like we were tired, sick, and injured. And we were,” said coach Welter. “Had to run about three different rotations. Macey Combs is nursing a quad injury, so she didn’t play much, which lead to a couple different rotations.”
Three Forks lost to Joliet (9-21, 20-21), Roundup (16-21, 15-21), Florence (14-21, 10-21), and Colstrip (8-21, 14-21). Erin Welter led the team with 13 kills on the day and 14 digs, while Kendall Lynn had seven kills. Klompien chipped in with 18 assists, 14 digs, five kills and three blocks.
Manhattan def. Three Forks 25-20, 25-22, 24-26, 27-25.
THREE FORKS (3-4) - Kills: 29 (Erin Welter 10, Breanna Bloch 6). Digs: 77 (Macey Combs 18, McKenzie Feddes 18). Blocks: 7 (Kirstin Klompien 4). Aces: 9 (Klompien 3). Assists: 26 (Klompien 18).
MANHATTAN (7-3) - Kills: 54 (Oliviah Westervelt 19, Erika Davis 17). Digs: 97 (Amy Grevious 33, Kaitlyn Kanuch 19). Blocks: 6 (Westervelt 3, Ella Halvorson 2). Aces: 6 (Grevious 3, Kanuch 2). Assists: 51 (Cayli Chapman 51).