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Cowgirls look to continue their run to state tournament
Thanks to a strong showing during the regular season, the Custer County District High School Cowgirl volleyball team will have the night off when the Eastern A Divisional Tournament starts tonight in Glendive.
The Cowgirls finished the Eastern A season 7-3 and are the second seed in the tournament. They open their tournament tomorrow at 1 p.m. against the winner of Hardin and Glendive.
“We had a tough practice on Monday, but we’ve been playing better,” Cowgirls Head Coach Marci Mollman said. “Everyone seems to have the mindset to get a win on Friday.”
The Cowgirls come in with a 14-14 overall record, but have been playing very well as of late.
Early in the season, the Cowgirls were swept at home by Sidney. But then on Oct. 10, the Cowgirls returned the favor with a four-game win. That was followed by a five-game loss to Lewistown and a four-game loss to Belgrade. Those two teams are the top two in the Central A.
Following those losses, the Cowgirls rolled to wins over Glendive and Laurel before losing to top-seeded Billings Central. The Cowgirls hammered Hardin in the regular-season finale.
“I think we’ve finally got a rhythm going and are adjusting well to each other,” Mollman said. “Even when we have those games, like against Laurel, where we lose set that is unexpected, we can come back from it.”
The Cowgirls have seven seniors on the roster, but not a ton of postseason experience.
Shaylee Singleton has been a stalwart for the Cowgirls. As a freshman, she stepped in and played for the Cowgirls at the divisional tournament and has started each of the last three seasons.
This year, Singleton leads the team in kills with 232, aces with 76 and digs with 448.
“Shaylee has been a great hitter for us the entire time she’s played for us,” Mollman said. “And I think she’s improved this year more than any other year because she’s learned to hit in all situations. She was getting blocked quite a bit early in the year, but she’s adjusted well. She’s a more versatile player at this point.”
Singleton leads the front line, but the Cowgirls are strong all across the net.
Junior Kadie Heinle has 183 kills and 260 total blocks on the season. Tori Swope, who has played on varsity the last three years, has 104 kills and 406 digs. Mackenzie Helland, Beth Sutter and Jessie Beard have also contributed on the front row.
“I feel like we always have three solid hitters at any point,” Mollman said. “Shaylee and Kadie are very consistent, and then we have Beth, who’s a smart hitter, and Jessie Beard has come along very well lately. And Tori has always been consistent. If someone is having a night off, we have three other girls that can take care of it.”
Catherine Nalewaja and Makena Ellingson have shared the setting duties for the Cowgirls. Nalewaja has 337 assists and Ellingson has 233.
Singleton, Swope, Stevie Murphy and Beard each have over 300 digs on the season. Nalewaja has 217 and Mariah Scholl and Ellingson each have over 100 to lead the Cowgirls’ back row defense.
“We struggle with serve receive, and have all year,” Mollman said. “Now that we have Stevie going in both spots in the back row, we’re more consistent. We’ve finally got it figured out that we have a good back row defense.”
The Cowgirls will open with either Glendive or Hardin and have swept both teams this season. They beat Hardin 3-2 in Hardin and 3-1 in the season finale. They beat Glendive all three times they’ve played, twice by sweeps.
“We’ll be nervous, as we are for every match,” Mollman said. “And we start slow. We have to start strong and play our game. We’re a quicker team than both Hardin and Glendive, so if we play our game and adjust well, we’ll be fine with either team.”
A win in the first round will put the Cowgirls into the semifinals at 7 p.m. on Friday. A loss will have them playing in the consolation bracket at 5 p.m.
Game 1- Laurel (2-8) vs. Sidney (5-5), 6 p.m.
Game 2- Hardin (5-5) vs. Glendive (1-9), 8 p.m.
Game 3- Billings Central (10-0) vs. Winner Game 1, 11 a.m.
Game 4- Miles City (7-3) vs. Winner Game 2, 1 p.m.
Game 5- Loser Game 2 vs. Loser Game 3, 3 p.m.
Game 6- Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 4, 5 p.m.
Game 7- Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 7 p.m.
Game 8- Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6, 12 p.m.
Game 9- Winner Game 8 vs. Loser Game 7, 2 p.m.
Game 10- Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 9, 4 p.m. (championship)
Game 11- Second championship, if necessary, 6 p.m.