By Tyler Allen Explore Big Sky Senior Editor

BIG SKY – The Lone Peak High School volleyball team entered the District 8C tournament with high hopes. The eighth-seeded Big Horns’ beat ninth-seeded Lima on Oct. 30 at Manhattan Christian High School, but lost later that day to No. 1 seed Gardiner in the first round.

The Big Horns lost in the same play-in scenario to Lima the previous two seasons, but improved to 5-8 in league play – thanks in part to stealing a match in Lima earlier this year – and secured the eighth seed. Last season LPHS ended up with a 4-9 record and regardless of the team’s tournament performance this year, the Big Horns made strides in the district.

“We had a great season compared to last year,” said Head Coach Sarah Griffiths. “We were up in every category of stats from last year. With one more year of playing, we were so much stronger.”

The Big Horns won games in matches – a volleyball match is scored best of five games – against teams that they had never come close to before, she added. Earlier this season, LPHS took the undefeated, No. 1 Gardiner team to a 25-25 score before ultimately losing the game and match.

“To play teams like defending state champion Gardiner in exciting games … It really shows how our program is growing,” Griffiths said.

The LPHS freshman setter Kuka Holder opened up the floor for the team this season, according to Griffiths, allowing the team to run a more complex offense, and the team’s defensive specialist, sophomore libero Luisa Locker, led the district with 199 digs.

While the young talent points to a optimistic future for the Big Horns, they had major contributions from the seniors Molly Sharr, Tehya Braun and Gabrielle Gasser. Braun and Gasser finished No. 1 and 2 respectively in district play with 94 and 65 kills.

“We have a very strong team right now and we are peaking at just the right moment.” Griffiths said.