The Libby High School volleyball team came away from the Western ‘A’ Divisional Tournament with second place, and a team to beat in Corvallis at the State ‘A’ Tournament next weekend.
Beginning on Thursday, the divisional tournament was far from the best volleyball the Lady Loggers have played this year, said Libby Head Coach Cindy Ostrem-Johnston.
“I kept telling them, ‘Get out of your own way,’ she said.
Even in their first match against Butte Central, Libby was lucky to win in three sets with how tight they were playing, she said.
“I thought, ‘OK, that’s OK, we got — it was ugly, but we won, and we got that behind us,” she said. “And then we just never got out of it.”
Libby went 3-2 overall, losing twice to Corvallis during the course of the tournament.
Those were two of only three losses the Lady Loggers carry with them from this season.
In the semi-final match that lead to the championship, the Lady Loggers battled Columbia Falls for five sets to move on.
Libby had handled the Wildkats much better during the regular season, Ostrem-Johnston said.
“We just played tight the whole time,” she said.
Corvallis came away with the divisional championship after beating the Lady Loggers twice over the course of the tournament, but Libby did make a better showing in their second match than in their first.
Libby has faced the Lady Blue Devils before during tournament play, and shouldn’t have had any surprises.
“We’ve seen Corvallis, and they know that they’re a good team; Corvallis is a good team, there’s no doubt about it,” Ostrem-Johnston said.
But the Lady Loggers allowed the Lady Blue Devils several long runs in their first match Friday, losing all but the final set by double digits.
In the final set, Libby had a 21-20 lead, but another run by Corvallis won them the set and match.
On Saturday, the Lady Loggers met the Wildkats, and clawed their way back into the championship.
Winning that match was crucial for seeding at the state tournament, Ostrem-Johnston said by email.
Despite the Lady Loggers not playing to their best, Ostrem Johnston said that Columbia Falls deserves credit for how well they played as well.
The Lady Loggers set up several runs of their own in the match against the Wildkats, leading into the first set with a 6-0 lead with senior Emma Gruber serving, and senior Alli Collins served-up another six-point run in that same set.
In the fourth set, Senior Mehki Sykes served for two scoring runs for six and five points. And in the final set, nine of Libby’s 15 points came in runs with junior Ashlyn Monigold serving a five-point run and Collins serving a four-point run.
“There were moments of brilliance, but we struggled a lot,” Ostrem-Johnston said. “They did fight through it and got second place, and that’s nothing to hang your heads about.”
“I am proud of them for gritting it out,” she said.
Among the grit the team showed, Ostrem-Johnston complimented Sykes.
“Mehki literally ‘gutted it out’ all weekend playing through sickness,” Ostrem-Johnston said by email, noting Sykes’ cumulative 85 kills and .337 attack percentage for the tournament.
Ostrem-Johnston said she feels Libby is in a good place going into the state tournament.
“We’re in the opposite bracket of Corvallis. I expect to meet them after a couple matches,” she said. “And I think we’ll be ready to compete better.”
To look forward, all the team needs to do is ground themselves in where they have already been, she said. They just need to relax and play volleyball the way they know how to.
“I think we learned a lot from the divisional tournament, and I’m hoping we can apply that at the state tournament,” she said. “We don’t need to play out of our heads. We just need to play the way we’re capable of playing to do well at the state tournament.”
Just making it to the tournament already places them among the best in the state, and there is no reason they can’t show themselves to be the very best, Ostrem-Johnston said she told the team. They just need to trust all the hours they have put in practicing and competing over the years that have lead them to this point.
“I mean, we have six seniors that have four years of varsity experience,” she said. “They need to just trust that and just go out there and play at the state tournament just like they played their matches during the season — Just play volleyball.”
The team has shown in other tournaments — and during the regular season — that they have it in them, she said. It’s just a matter of doing it.
“They played like a well-oiled machine at the district tournament, and then we got away from that at the divisional tournament,” she said. “They just need to believe in themselves, and believe in each other, no matter what’s happening out on the court — just trust that they can do it.”
Libby starts their first match of the Montana State ‘A’ Tournament at 2 p.m. Thursday, when they will face Harden, the third-ranked team in the Eastern ‘A’. The winner of that match will play either Belgrade — first-ranked Eastern ‘A’ — or Whitefish at 8 p.m. Thursday.
Western A Divisional Tournament
Overall stats: 32 ace, 214 kill, 183 assist, 19 block, 246 dig; Alli Collins 13 ace, 7 kill, 179 assist, 22 dig; Sheyla Gallagher 9 kill, 3 assist, 5 block, 10 dig; Jayden Winslow 7 ace, 56 kill, 5 block, 48 dig; McKenzie Proffitt 25 kill, 6 block, 3 dig; Mehki Sykes 5 ace, 85 kill, 1 assist, 10 block, 10 dig; Ashlyn Monigold 3 ace, 23 dig; Kylee Quinn 2 ace, 1 dig; Linsey Walker 1 ace, 32 dig; Jessika Jones 32 kill, 1 block, 12 dig; Emma Gruber 1 ace, 85 dig.
Friday, Nov. 2
Corvallis 3, Libby 0
Sets: 25-13, 25-14, 25-21
L: 5 ace, 23 kill, 18 assist, 6 block, 37 dig; Alli Collins 2 kill, 18 assist, 3 dig; Sheyla Gallagher 2 kill, 3 block, 3 dig; Jayden Winslow 2 ace, 4 kill, 1 block, 10 dig; McKenzie Proffitt 3 kill, 2 block, 1 dig; Mehki Sykes 3 ace, 10 kill, 3 block, 2 dig; Ashlyn Monigold 2 dig; Linsey Walker 9 dig; Jessika Jones 2 kill, 1 dig; Emma Gruber 6 dig.
Saturday, Nov. 3
Libby 3, Columbia Falls 2
Sets: 25-16, 15-25, 23-25, 25-17, 15-5
L: 6 ace, 55 kill, 47 assist, 7 block, 59 dig; Alli Collins 3 ace, 1 kill, 47 assist, 7 dig; Sheyla Gallagher 1 kill, 1 block; Jayden Winslow 12 kill, 4 block, 6 dig; McKenzie Proffitt 13 kill, 4 block; Mehki Sykes 2 ace, 23 kill, 1 block, 4 dig; Ashlyn Monigold 1 ace, 5 dig; Linsey Walker 8 dig; Jessika Jones 5 kill, 3 dig; Emma Gruber 26 dig.
Corvallis 3, Libby 1
Sets: 25-23, 25-15, 15-25, 25-13
L: 3 ace, 44 kill, 39 assist, 6 block, 50 dig; Alli Collins 2 ace, 2 kill, 37 assist, 4 dig;
Sheyla Gallagher 1 assist, 1 block, 1 dig; Jayden Winslow 15 kill, 1 block, 13 dig; McKenzie Proffitt 3 kill, 1 block, 1 dig; Mehki Sykes 16 kill, 1 assist, 5 block, 1 dig; Ashlyn Monigold 5 dig; Linsey Walker 9 dig; Jessika Jones 8 kill, 2 block,2 dig; Emma Gruber 1 ace, 14 dig.