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Volleyball: Libby wins marathon over Whitefish

by Brad FuquaWestern News
| October 12, 2009 12:00 AM

Trailing 7-3 in the fifth game of a back-and-forth Northwestern A match against Whitefish on Saturday, the Lady Loggers huddled during a timeout.

Head coach Cindy Ostrem-Johnston needed to turn the tide in her team’s favor.

“I just tried to encourage them that we can do this,” Ostrem-Johnston said. “Jackie (Mee) was good in our huddles … pass, hit, keep it simple.”

A few minutes later, Whitefish called timeout in an effort to stop Libby’s momentum. Instead, the home team went on to a marathon victory, 25-14, 20-25, 23-25, 25-11, 18-16.

“We came on so strong in that first game and took it to them,” Ostrem-Johnston said. “I don’t know if we relaxed too much and got overconfident like we had it but they started coming back. They were putting the ball down hard and dug some of Jackie’s hard hits.”

In the opening game, Libby trailed 6-4 early but things changed when Mee got a sideout on a powerful kill. Mee followed by serving for 10 straight points to help the Loggers to a 15-6 lead. Over that stretch, Mee had three ace serves, Alex Kulbeck had a kill and ace block and Alysha Martin hit a ball for a kill that fell just inside the back line.

Libby went on to win the game handily and it appeared things would be business as usual for the Logger spikers. However, the Bulldogs were not going to go away quietly and in fact, got the upper hand behind the hitting of senior Kaitlyn Wehrli while taking advantage of Libby’s frustrations.

“We kind of got in a funk there and nothing was going right for two games,” Ostrem-Johnston said. “It was like we were two different teams out there.”

In the second game, the two teams battled close until Whitefish created a little cushion with Jessica Slaybaugh serving. Wehrli had a pair of kills and Slaybaugh served for an ace to give the Dogs an 18-14 lead. Libby got back to within 19-17 following an Alysha Martin play at the net but the visitors finished strong and took the game by five points.

The Bulldogs continued along the same lines in the third game. Again, the action was close with every point holding great importance. The Loggers led 23-22 on a Mee kill only to see Whitefish score the next three points and take a 2-1 lead on the evening.

On the 23rd point, Katie Emery blocked a hit but it fell out. Heather Bailey scored on a dink on the 24th point and Wehrli put it away with a kill that glanced off Libby’s fingertips.

Libby came out strong in the fourth game and took control with Emery serving for seven straight points – including three aces and three Mee kills. The Loggers finished with an impressive serving run by Alyssa Walker. The Libby sophomore served for the final seven points. Mee and Kulbeck both had kills over that stretch and Libby came up with two blocks for points involving Mee, Emery and Kulbeck.

In the fifth game, the Bulldogs stole momentum back and never trailed until Libby took a 12-11 lead on a Martin ace serve that fell inside the back line. Libby took leads of 13-12 on a Kulbeck kill and 14-13 on a Mee kill but Whitefish had answers on both occasions.

Mee’s ace block put the Loggers up, 15-14, but a hit into the net on the next point tied it up again. Whitefish then went up 16-15 on a play by Olivia Nagler. But that would be the Bulldogs’ last point. Libby finished out the match with the Dogs hitting long on point 16, Kulbeck getting a hit on point 17 and Mee recording a kill from the middle of the court on point 18.

“In the fifth game, the good thing about it was although they got themselves in a tight spot, they were able to work it out,” Ostrem-Johnston said. “So, that’s good experience and helps them realize that they don’t want to be in that situation again.”

Mee finished with 22 kills, five blocks and a .357 attack percentage. Kulbeck and Martin each had eight kills but overall, Libby struggled with a .191 attack percentage. Evi Cernick was good on 31 set assists. Emery had three blocks.

At the line, Mee served 96 percent with six aces. Emery had 88 percent serving with four aces and Walker was 86 percent and one ace. Martin showed consistency with 94 percent serving. On the receive, Logan Best led with 14 digs, Martin had 13 and Mee finished with 12. On the serve-receive ratio, Mee came in at 2.44 and Martin was at 2.20.

Earlier in the week, Libby put up a good fight in Kalispell but dropped a match to Flathead, 16-25, 25-14, 29-27, 25-16.

The Loggers surprised the Bravettes early on and then put up a good fight in the third game.

"That was kind of a pleasant surprise to come out and take that first game like that," Ostrem-Johnston said.

"We were on a roll. Things were going well for us.”

Libby rallied to push the home team to the limit in game 3.

“It was fun to see the kids battle there at the end and push it to 27-29,” Ostrem-Johnston said. “I was disappointed in our second and fourth games.”

Mee finished with 21 kills and a .302 attack percentage. Best and Kulbeck added seven and six kills, respectively. Cernick had 35 assists and four kills with a .333 attack percentage. Kulbeck had three blocks.

On the serve, Emery had three aces with a 91 percent success rate, including a run of eight points in the first game. Martin served 100 percent and Mee served 92 percent. Martin led in digs with 14 and Mee had 13. As a team, Libby finished with a 2.16 serve-receive ratio led by Mee’s 2.26 and Walker’s 2.25.

“Flathead’s big … we didn’t adjust very well to that and hit a lot into the block,” Ostrem-Johnston said. “They kind of stopped hitting the ball because they were afraid of getting blocked.”

Libby (4-1 in region, 5-2 overall) heads to Eureka on Thursday.