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Belgrade awaits LHS in first round at state

by Brad Fuqua & Western News
| November 17, 2008 11:00 PM

When Libby faces Belgrade in the opening round of the Class A State Volleyball Tournament on Thursday, longtime coach Cindy Ostrem-Johnston hopes her athletes will have the ability to stay focused and just play their game.

As history shows, many teams have gone to state tournaments after standout regular seasons and bowed out under pressure.

When asked what the Lady Loggers will need to do in their quest for success, Ostrem-Johnston said, “Just focus on playing their game … do what they’ve been doing all year and controlling their nerves.”

Recently, Ostrem-Johnson watched the film, “The Greatest Game Ever Played” – a golf drama that tells the story of 20-year-old Francis Ouimet’s victory at the 1913 U.S. Open.

“There’s a quote in there that is so true … ‘there are two types of players, those who keep their nerves in control in championships and those who do not.’ That’s a big part of it, being mentally tough and going out and playing like it’s any other game,” Ostrem-Johnston said.

The Lady Loggers (12-3 overall) haven’t seen Belgrade this season, although both schools competed in an early-season tournament at Whitefish.

“I was concentrating so much on my rotations that I didn’t even watch them,” Ostrem-Johnston said. “I have their roster from that tournament and if the team is still the same, they don’t have anyone over 5-8. If that’s true, we would definitely have a size advantage.”

Belgrade finished second in the Central divisional tournament. Fergus out of Lewistown took that tourney title and are also the defending state champions. Ostrem-Johnston said Lewistown will be the favorite with only one player lost off last year’s championship team.

Libby and Belgrade will face off at 2 p.m. Other first-round matches on Thursday pit Custer County out of Miles City against Beaverhead County out of Dillon, Fergus against Polson and Anaconda against Billings Central. The tournament continues with matches later Thursday and on Friday and Saturday at Montana State University’s Brick Breeden Fieldhouse in Bozeman.

The state championship match is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday. If a second title match is needed under the double-elimination format, it would follow at 5 p.m.

Libby’s lone state championship in volleyball came back in 1997.

“It looks kind of lonely up there,” Ostrem-Johnston said, referring to the state title banner that hangs in Ralph Tate Memorial Gymnasium.

The Loggers placed fourth at last year’s state tournament. Under Ostrem-Johnston, Libby has won eight divisional titles in 16 years and has qualified for state 10 times over the same timeframe.

Ostrem-Johnston said the team will leave town on Wednesday morning and stop at the Deer Lodge home owned by the parents of assistant coach Kyle Crawford – something that has become a tradition for the volleyball team. The Loggers will then go on to Bozeman to prepare for day 1.

Nov. 20-22

At Brick Breeden Fieldhouse, Bozeman

Qualifiers

No. 1 Seeds – East, Custer County (Miles City); Central, Fergus (Lewistown); Northwest, Libby; Southwest, Anaconda.

No. 2 Seeds – East, Billings Central; Central, Belgrade; Northwest, Polson; Southwest, Beaverhead County (Dillon).

Thursday’s Matches

First Round

Custer County vs. Beaverhead County, 10 a.m.

Fergus vs. Polson, noon

Libby vs. Belgrade, 2 p.m.

Anaconda vs. Billings Central, 4 p.m.

Second Round

Custer County-Beaverhead County winner vs. Fergus-Polson winner, 6 p.m.

Libby-Belgrade winner vs. Anaconda-Billings Central winner, 8 p.m.

Friday’s Matches

Second Round

Custer County-Beaverhead County loser vs. Fergus-Polson loser, 10 a.m.

Libby-Belgrade loser vs. Anaconda-Billings Central loser, noon

Loser’s Bracket

Matches scheduled for 2 and 4 p.m.

Semifinal

Match scheduled for 6 p.m.

Elimination

Match scheduled for 8 p.m.

Saturday’s Matches

Semifinal

Match scheduled for 11 a.m.

Championship

Match scheduled for 3 p.m.

Note: If the loser of the championship match suffered its first setback of the tournament, a second championship match will be played at 5 p.m.