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Trotters surge to third in Western C tourney

Just miss earning State C bid


November 9, 2017

John Hamilton

RACHEL THE REJECTOR - Plains senior Rachel Huenink goes for a blocked shot during District 14C tournament action in Charlo Oct. 26. Huenink and her teammates won third place in the Western C tournament at Churchill last week.

What a great time to find your 'A' game.

The Plains Trotters, playing their very best volleyball of the season right when it counted most, surged to a third place finish in the Western C divisional tournament in Churchill Thursday through Saturday, just missing a rare State C tournament bid.

"I am so proud of this team," coach Jesse Butcher said Monday. "Everyone seemed to peak at the right time and we played our best volleyball of the season when it counted the most."

The Trotters would still be talking about playing more this week, if they had gotten past Gardiner in the loser takes third match Saturday morning, but the Lady Bruins batted out a 25-17, 25-7, 25-16 win to send the Trotters home with their hard-earned third place team trophy.

Gardiner then lost to Ennis 29-27, 21-25, 25-21, 25-16 in the championship. The Bruins and Mustangs will represent the Western C at the Montana All-Class tournament at Brick Breeden Fieldhouse in Bozeman this Thursday through Saturday.

The Trotters opened the tourney with a 25-11, 25-12, 25-13 win over Seeley-Swan in the Western C at Churchill Thursday, and then fell to Ennis 25-23, 25-16, 25-23 later that day.

Plains stayed alive Friday with a grueling 26-28, 25-19, 18-25, 25-16, 15-10 win over Twin Bridges Friday morning, and then knocked off Manhattan Christian 25-19, 25-15, 26-24 in the loser takes now worse than fourth match Friday night.

The victory over Manhattan Christian was a watershed moment for the Trotters in the respect that they beat the team that beat the team that they could never beat this season, after the Lady Eagles eliminated Arlee 25-23, 25-20, 25-19 earlier Friday.

The Trotters had lost to the Scarlets twice during the regular season and again at the District 14C tourney last week at Charlo, but ended up ahead of Arlee in the final net reckoning of the season in Churchill.

"We got close to realizing our full potential these last few weeks," Butcher said, "We played together as a team as well as we have all season and you can't ask for more that that."

As to almost making it to Montana's biggest net show in Bozeman, Butcher said: "Sure you want to win when you get that close," she offered. "We were disappointed when we didn't make it but, hey, we did the next best thing by winning third place."

The Trotters made the most of their post season opportunities these past few weeks, playing through five tough matches in Churchill last week after going toe-to-toe with their 14C brethren in five equally challenging matches in Charlo the week before.

"Maybe that is what we needed, to play a lot," Butcher said. "Ten matches in two weeks is quite a bit, but we seemed to get better together the more we played."

The win over District 13C champion Seeley-Swan jump-started the Trotters' Western C odyssey.

Kara Altmiller knocked down eight kills and Rachel Huenink blocked five shots to lead Plains at the net in that mach, Jessica Thompson added 11 digs and five service aces, and Haley Josephson dished out 10 assists.

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Chloe Robbins and Ashley Miller had two kills apiece for Seeley.

Back on court against Ennis later Thursday, the Trotters played Ennis tough but couldn't quite win a set and fell to the eventual champs in three.

Huenink hit seven of Plains' 26 kills, Altmiller finished with four of the Trotters' six kills and Thompson 15 of her team's 35 total digs. Josephson hit 12 assists and Lindsay Laws a team-high three service aces.

Jordan Klein had 14 kills, seven blocks and six digs to lead Ennis, Payton Fortner and Whitney McKittrick were good for 15 assists each and Josie Jenkins hit three aces for the Mustangs.

The Trotters stayed alive with the wins over Twin Bridges and Manhattan Christian Friday.

Thompson played one of her best matches of the season in leading Plains past Twin, racking up 19 kills and digging up 17 kill attempts, Hunenink rejected 12 kill shots with stuff blocks, Josephson hit 21 assists and Laws rifled in five service aces.

Riah Edsall (18 kills), Kailee Oliverson (seven blocks), Kylee Larson (17 digs) and Savanna Stewart (22 assists) paced Twin Bridges.

The Trotters clinched no worse than third with the win over Manhattan Christian later Friday.

Huenink hit 12 kills in that match, Altmiller blocked seven shots, Josephson had 15 digs and Laws 18 assists and three aces.

Kellie Van Kirk hit nine kills and Rylie Thompson two blocks to lead Manhattan Christian.

The Trotters completed their two-week whirlwind of volleyball matches with the loss to Gardiner Saturday.

Thompson recorded eight kills and 12 digs for Plains in that match, Huenink blocked three shots, and Laws dished out nine assists and hit two service aces.

Kyndra Long hit 11 kills and blocked two shots for Gardiner, and Sage Crowley added 11 digs and 24 set assists.

Butcher says she will miss the seniors from this year's might fine Trotter team but still looks forward to what next season might bring.

"We are starting to develop a volleyball culture in Plains," she said. "We will definitely miss our seniors next year but we feel good about what we have coming up behind them, too.

"We have the potential to be a very good team again next year," she added.


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