Taken from the Lake County Leader-Advertiser
Lady Pirates Claim Fourth
BOZEMAN — The Polson volleyball team entered the Class A state volleyball tournament last weekend with a couple goals.
The Pirates wanted to do better than they did last year and bring home hardware from the state tournament.
After losing two games and exiting the tournament early in 2008, Polson was left hungry for more.
That was what this year was all about.
Polson did better in the regular season, going 13-0 and beating rival Libby twice.
In the divisional tournament, Polson ended the same with a second-seed bid to the state tournament.
At state, the team faced a familiar path with a first-round loss before picking themselves up and winning two games four hours apart.
The Pirates took home a fourth place finish after a heartbreaking loss to Fergus.
Game one: vs. Anaconda
In the first game of the Class A tournament, Polson faced the first seed out of the southwest: Anaconda.
The Pirates started out nervous.
“We came out tentative,” head coach Jan Toth said. “We weren’t prepared to play mentally.”
Polson’s serves went out of bounds and couldn’t get things going. Anaconda tipped everything over the net and put the ball into the back row to win 25-23, 25-21, 25-18.
Junior setter Kayla Duford dished out 25 assists and added three aces. Junior outside hitter Breanne Kelley had 12 kills and senior libero Staci Benson had 23 digs.
Game two: vs. Hardin
Twenty-four hours later, against the second seed from the east, Polson started slow, trailing much of the first set. Polson was unable to find an offensive rhythm and hit into Hardin’s blocking in a game that would send the loser packing.
The Pirates pulled within one point, trailing 15-16, but couldn’t pull ahead and lost 19-25.
Hardin showed up with at least 50 students in support of their team.
Polson didn’t give them much to cheer about after that first set.
The Pirates started out behind in the second set but worked their way to a 6-3 lead.
Kills by senior outside hitter Nicole Davey and Kelley put the Pirates up by five.
Hardin didn’t help their cause, as it served into the net three times in a row.
Davey stepped to the line and served an ace and senior middle hitter Loni Havlovick put up a successful block.
Kelley threw down two kills and junior defensive specialist Marissa McCrea served an ace for the 25-17 win.
The difference between the first set and the second was that Polson made serving errors, Toth said.
Davey told Toth that she wasn’t ready to go home and the Pirates settled down to play their game.
“We started to play the way we came to play,” Toth said.
The third set was all Polson.
Junior middle hitter Sallie Sams made a kill and McCrea served an ace for a 12-5 Pirate lead. Sams put down another kill and Benson’s serving put the Pirates up by eight points.
Hardin put up two big blocks to stop Polson’s run.
Havlovick went up for a block but the ball got by her. Kelley was in position behind her to save the ball.
Kenney served an ace and Benson notched a kill from the back row before McCrea served to end the game 25-13.
The fourth set started where the third one ended with Polson setting the tone.
Kills from Kelley and Havlovick put the Pirates up 8-6.
After Hardin earned a point with a well-placed kill, Duford and Sams went up for a double block and tipped the ball. Kelley was in place to save it and Benson hit it over for the point.
Davey and Havlovick put up two more kills for a 17-13 lead.
Two long rallies later, Havlovick and Davey each made kills in the 25-21 win.
Kelley led the Pirate with two aces, Davey led with 18 kills, Duford dished out 48 assists, Havlovick had three blocks and Benson had 28 digs.
Game three: vs. Libby
Polson started the game 90 minutes after its previous game. yet showed no signs of exhaustion. Libby, on the other hand, had a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast in its stomachs. The Loggers last game ended 14 hours earlier.
The Pirates had just enough time to get some solid food in their stomachs before having to take the court.
In the do or die game, the two opponents were familiar with each other.
“We knew Libby inside and out,” Toth said. “We knew we had to serve tough and block and contain Jackie Mee.”
Duford started things off for the Pirates, serving an ace. Libby looked a little startled by the serve as Polson went on a 3-2 run.
The Loggers weren’t going to back down, tying the score on five separate occasions.
Benson stepped up to serve for the Pirates with two aces to make it 7-3. She looked excited to get those two points and threw in a fist pump to celebrate for good measure.
Havlovick put down a hard kill and Libby took a time out.
The Pirates had a tough time keeping their kills in bounds, which brought the score to 8-7.
This time it was Polson’s turn to take a time out and shift the momentum.
Havlovick started things off with a well-placed kill in the back corner, where no Loggers were.
Next, it was Davey’s turn to step up. She put down a kill and served two aces for a 15-11 lead for the Pirates.
“Nicole led the way for us in that game,” Toth said.
With Libby serving, the ball went straight to Benson in the back row.
However, she didn’t hit it. She let it go out of bounds for a Pirate point.
Havlovick put up a block and Kelley made two kills to put the Pirates before the Loggers brought the score within three.
“Loni and Breanne stepped it up,” Toth said.
Toth took a time out to regroup her team.
Havlovick exited the timeout with two kills and Benson served an ace to end the set 25-22.
In the second set, Polson started the same way they ended the first, with an ace.
Duford served the ace and next dished a set to Davey for a kill.
Taking her familiar place at the net, Havlovick made a successful block, but Libby was able to send it back over, right back at her. Havlovick quickly fired it back for a kill.
Duford also was quick on her feet. Instead of setting the ball to one of her multiple hitters, she lightly dropped it over the net to the unsuspecting Loggers for a 9-6 lead.
Libby came back to a 17-17 tie but Kenney took charge by serving an ace.
To end the set, Duford and Havlovick teamed up for a block and a 25-21 win.
The third set started out rocky for Polson. With a 6-6 tie, senior outside hitter Christa Red Crow served an ace and Davey made a kill for a 10-7 lead.
Davey again made her time at the net count when she redirected her kill to the left and added another one on the following point.
With a 17-13 Pirate lead, Libby’s star senior Jackie Mee collided with a teammate and landed wrong on her right leg. She was taken out, only to return two points later.
Polson served the ball to her and, after a slow reaction, Mee exited the game for good.
Polson took charge and McCrea served to end the set and game 25-17
The Pirates took charge of the sets, never falling behind the Loggers. Davey was all over the court, leading Polson in aces, with three, kills, with 36 and digs, with 15. Havlovick made her presence at the net known often and officially tallied two blocks and Duford assisted 31 times.
The win gave Polson life in the tournament. The win also secured that the Pirates would take, at worst, fourth place in the tournament.
Game four: vs. Fergus
With four hours since the end of their intense, emotional game with Libby, the Pirates had to jump back on the court and summon what energy they had left to complete the second day of competition.
“The hardest part and our downfall was that we had too much time between games,” Toth said.
The Pirates navigated their way to the bus, difficult in the snow storm that hit Bozeman, ate and returned to the arena.
Some Pirates laid down to rest their muscles while others danced around the locker room with the Missoula Sentinel team.
Polson dropped two points in the beginning of the first set but came back within one point 6-5.
Communication problems plagued the Pirates who were unable to get any offense going.
Toth took a timeout and as her players took to the court, she yelled “Have no regrets.”
Sophomore middle hitter Riley Kenney put a ball down that Fergus couldn’t dig up for a 21-13 score but the Pirates dropped the set 18-25.
“There was going to be a time when your body hits a wall but your mind wants it so bad,” Toth said. “We hit that wall.”
The second set was similar to the first set. Kenney registered a kill to bring Polson within one point of Fergus 6-7.
Five Fergus points later, Toth began to summon her bench and subbed in and out frequently.
“I was trying to do anything I could to get a spark,” she said.
Sams stepped up and had three blocks in a row for three points and bring the Pirates within five but Fergus stormed on to end the set 25-20.
The third set is where the Pirates came alive.
Red Crow had a kill to tie the game at two.
Down 4-6, Havlovick came off the bench with energy. She blocked a ball before spiking one down for a point.
Davey served an ace and Polson went on a three-point roll.
Duford served two more aces to bring Polson within two, 17-15.
Polson continued to battle, not wanting to go home and was never more than two points behind, forcing the game to 26 points in a 26-24 loss.
“By the time we got anything going, we were emotionally spent,” Toth said. “We came up short. Had we started to climb back earlier, it would have been closer.”
Kenney had 15 digs and five kills.
“Riley did a great job,” Toth said. “As a sophomore, I told her I wanted to see confidence.”
Kelley had 10 kills and Sams had four blocks. Duford had four aces and 27 assists.
The loss was devastating, as Toth thought Polson was one of the top-two teams in the tournament.
“We had to go through the loser’s side and that takes a lot of energy,” she said.
At the end of the tournament, Davey, Benson and Kelley were named to the all-state and all-conference teams.
Davey finished second in the conference with an average of 3.35 kills per game. She placed first in aces per game with a little more than one per game and a total of 49 in the regular season.
Kelley finished close behind with .91 aces per game. She finished second in the conference in blocks per game.
Benson led Polson’s back row. She averaged 5.68 and had a total of 227 digs in the regular season.
Duford and Sams made second team all-conference and Havlovick made honorable mention all-conference.
Duford led the conference in assists per game with 9.16.
Since Toth can’t vote for her own players, so to have six players nominated shows “that other coaches have respect for my players,” she said.
Polson ended the regular season atop all team categories, leading in digs, blocks, aces and assists per game and team hitting percentage.
“They are by far bigger champions than any trophy can display,” Toth said. “Success isn’t always measured by the win-loss record. It’s measured by those pivotal moments and how they do.”