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State volleyball: LHS wins 1 of 3 to finish 5th

by Western News
| November 15, 2009 11:00 PM

Following a great start to the Class A state volleyball tournament last week, Libby High School moved into a winner’s bracket game on Thursday evening for a showdown against Billings Central.

The Lady Loggers needed to be at the top of their game to compete with the Rams. Unfortunately for Libby, unforced errors and the failure to play consistent at a high level was too much to overcome in a 25-17, 25-16, 25-18 loss.

“Billings had four pretty solid hitters – two really strong ones – and we needed to block a lot better,” LHS coach Cindy Ostrem-Johnston said.

The Loggers jumped out to a lead of 3-0 in the first game but committed 13 unforced errors. In the second game, Libby held an 8-4 advantage but a lack of blocking and back-row defense hurt too much. And in the third game, Libby battled back from a 9-4 deficit to tie it up at 17 only to see the Rams take control late.

In all, the Loggers had nine serving errors and 18 hitting errors – 27 easy points for the opponent.

“We can’t play like that against a good team. We were just shooting ourselves in the foot over and over,” Ostrem-Johnston said.

Billings Central went on to win the state championship in the finals over Anaconda.

The Lady Loggers opened the tournament with a 25-15, 25-19, 25-15 victory over Stevensville, the No. 2 seed out of the Southwest.

Senior Jackie Mee finished with 17 kills and a .462 attack percentage to go along with four blocks. Alex Kulbeck also had four blocks, Logan Best chipped in four ace serves and Evi Cernick had 23 set assists.  Best, Cernick and Malena Sweet shared team highs in digs with five apiece.

“They were in good control for being the first match,” Ostrem-Johnston said. “They passed well as a team and it was good to win the first match at state.”

That put LHS into the match against Billings Central. On that stat sheet, Libby had low percentages of .109 on the attack and 83 on the serve vs. the Rams.

Individually, Mee had 20 of the team’s 28 kills with a .279 attack percentage. She also had three blocks, four aces and served at 91 percent. Cernick was the lone player at 100 percent serving and she also had 20 set assists. Alysha Martin tallied 12 digs.

The loss sent Libby into a Friday elimination match against Northwestern A rival Polson.

“Unfortunately, we met Polson for the eighth time this season so it was like, ‘great, here we go again,’ especially after battling back and forth at divisionals,” Ostrem-Johnston said.

The Lady Pirates pulled off a 25-22, 25-21, 25-17 victory over Libby to advance. With the loss, the Lady Loggers officially finished fifth in the tournament.

Libby had trouble closing out wins in the final match. In the opening game, Libby battled back from 8-3 to tie it up at 8-8, and then fell behind again, 17-11. The Loggers again rallied to pull to within 20-19 and 23-22 but couldn’t finish.

“We just had to work so hard to catch back up the whole time and we ended up losing it,” Ostrem-Johnston said.

The story held true in the second and third games. Libby would get down early and rally only to see the opponent win in the end. In the third game, the team suffered a major loss when Mee had to leave the floor with a sprained ankle.

Mee finished with 15 kills, 12 digs and one block. Katie Emery had two ace serves while Best compiled a 100-percent serving percentage. Cernick chipped in 27 assists and Mee had a 2.90 serve-receive ratio.

“Overall, it was just disappointing finishing that way at state after playing so well at divisionals last weekend,” Ostrem-Johnston said. “But we didn’t step up and compete like we did at divisionals.”

Libby finished the season with an overall record of 12-7.

Ostrem-Johnston offered her thanks to businesses, parents and administration for helping with divisionals. She also thanked Todd Berget and his students for making banners.