District 5C Volleyball Tournament promises some exciting action

By: 
Doreen Heintz
Sports Editor

DGS’s Rachel Burns (10) attempts to block a kill by Tri-City’s Brianna Bergum (19) in a match on Saturday in Stanford.

Photo by Doreen Heintz

Although Harlowton captured the top spot in District 5C volleyball during regular season play, look for any one of four teams to challenge Harlowton for the District 5C crown at the district tournament, which starts Friday in Geyser. Denton-Geyser-Stanford and Browdview-Lavina will need to play extremely well in the tournament to challenge for the top spot because the two squads have only one conference win each – beating each other during the regular season.
Roy-Winifred may be the team to watch again this year. For the past two years, the Lady Outlaws have won the district tournament championship despite not winning the conference crown. One thing for certain Lady Outlaw Coach Jolene Ehlert will have her team ready to play on Friday. The Lady Outlaws have been without the services of Lorianne Stulc for most of the season after she was dismissed from the team for a training rule violation. Jada Kananen and Brietta Boyce are strong hitters for Ehlert. Kaylie Carlstrom is a steady hand at the setter position and also has a strong serve for the Lady Outlaws. Jada Goettlich and Samantha DeMars are strong blockers at the net.
Roy-Winifred plays Broadview-Lavina in the first match of the District 5C Tournament. That match begins at 11 a.m. on Friday.
Broadview-Lavina are led by the Schott twins, Kylie and Krista. Jose Yates has stepped back into the role as head coach for the Lady Pirates. Other contributors include Hope Opie and Chloe Hanser.
The second match of the tournament features Grass Range-Winnett versus DGS. Veteran Coach Kate Johnson has two very experienced players in Piper Johnson and Taylor Stahl. Although the two are only juniors, Johnsona and Stahl have been starting since they were freshmen. Other starters for Coach Johnson are Hailey Matovich, Kendra Murnion, Jacy Nunn and Sydney Browning. Sophomore Browning is the only starter who is not a junior. Coming off the bench for the Lady Rangers is Brianna Roat and Hanna Matovich.
Senior Kyra Randel is a strong front row and back row player for DGS Coach Connie Becker. Randel often times leads the Lady Bearcats in kills and digs. She has been a starter since her sophomore year. Fellow senior Rachel Burns provides strong blocking at the net for Becker. She often times is the second best hitter on the squad.  Other starters for the Bearcats are senior Julia Tonne, junior setter Skylar Miller, junior Natalie Sloan and junior Julia Grubb. Freshman Keely Vejtasa comes off the bench to replace Tonne on the front line.
In order to be competitive at the district tournament, the Lady Bearcats will have to play consistent volleyball and not allow other teams to go on long runs, particularly in the sets. Often times DGS finds itself behind by 10 to 12 points before they begin to play competitive volleyball.
Both Tri-City (Hobson, Moore, Judith Gap) and Harlowton drew first-round byes in the tournament.
Tri-City will match up against the winner of the Roy-Winifred vs. Broadview-Lavina match at 2 p.m. on Friday. Friday afternoon’s second match features Harlowton facing the winner of the DGS vs. Grass Range-Winnett match. Two loser-out matches are scheduled for Friday evening.
Play on Saturday continues at 1 p.m., with the championship match scheduled for 5:30 p.m.
New Tri-City head Coach Chantelle Thomas had her young squad playing strong volleyball throughout the season. Thomas has only one senior on the team this year – hitter Devyn Hughes. Hughes consistently led the Lady Titans in kills throughout the season.
One of the strengths of the Lady Titans is the strong bench play. Thomas is not afraid to substitute throughout a contest. Recently, the Lady Titans began running a 6-2 offense.
“I wanted to run it all year,” explained Thomas, “but I also had to make sure I knew what I was doing as a first-year head coach.”
By running the 6-2, Thomas can take advantage of the numerous hitters on the team, including juniors Alyssa Thomas and Mamie Hertel, along with sophomores Chloe Derks, Kristen Vincent, Brianna Bergum and Sami Connerton. Thomas is also blessed with two outstanding setters, who can be used almost interchangeably. They are junior Morgan Wertheimer and sophomore Josi Kriskovich.
“I like to get Kriskovich on the court to serve because she has a dynamite jump serve for us,” added Coach Thomas.
Harlowton is also a young squad with only one senior, Kaitlin Lane. Coach Allison Jones starts a strong group of juniors with Mariah Dietrich, Madison Wasson, Amanda Martin, Hattie Cavill and Lainie McKay. The one thing Jones does lack is a strong bench.
The Lady Engineers are truly battle tested this year, having no home games actually played in Harlowton. The Lady Engineeers have had home matches in places like Big Timber and Fergus High School in Lewistown.
The top four teams from the district tournament will advance to the Southern C Divisional Tournament, which will be played in Lewistown on Nov. 3-5.
 

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