By Amanda Eggert EBS Associate Editor
BIG SKY – After a strong showing at the 10C District tournament, the Big Horns entered the Western C Divisional tournament in Butte riding a surge of momentum.
In the program’s seven-year history, this was the first time that Big Sky’s volleyball team made it so far in postseason play. “[At] Divisionals nobody knew who we were, which was awesome,” said head coach Sarah Phelps. “They kept saying, ‘Who is this Lone Peak?’”
The Big Horns were on a roll Nov. 3, putting up impressive numbers while handily defeating Arlee and Seeley-Swan. Lone Peak scored 43 kills to Arlee’s 24 and posted an 11-2 win in the aces column. In the following match, Lone Peak logged similarly impressive stats, doubling both Seeley-Swan’s kills with 56, and assists with 49.
“We were able to open up our offense and we hit the ball really, really well,” Phelps said, adding that the Big Horns’ sophomore middle blocker had a particularly good game against Seeley-Swan. “Solae Swenson busted the school record in kills. She had 22 … which was unbelievable.”
The next day, Lone Peak went head-to-head with the Ennis Mustangs, a team that was not to be beaten in the tournament. Lone Peak fell to Ennis 25-11, 25-13, 25-18 in the semifinals.
Phelps said the Big Horns couldn’t find their rhythm during that game. Lone Peak struggled to compete with Ennis at the net on both offense and defense. The Big Horns had 17 assists to the Mustangs’ 31; 19 kills to the Mustangs’ 34; and were out blocked 16-0, a staggering number of blocks for a three-set high school volleyball game.
In the consolation bracket, the Big Horns squared off against Gardiner, their closest rivals this season and the team they lost to in the championship game of the 10C District tournament the prior week. Phelps said the girls put forth a valiant effort in a high-pressure game, but they ultimately lost in four sets to the Bruins.
Even the Bruins couldn’t defeat the Mustangs. A tall team with two players who are 6 feet 1 inch, and one who is 6 feet 3 inches tall, Ennis was undefeated in the tournament. They bested Gardiner by similar margins in the championship match, winning in straight sets 25-19, 25-14, 25-13.
Ennis claimed the state championship in 2009 and Gardiner captured it from 2012-2014. Gardiner will have the opportunity to avenge their Nov. 5 loss during the state tournament Nov. 10-12 at Montana State University.
Phelps said Lone Peak’s volleyball program has taken huge strides this season. Their performance at Divisionals earned them a spot as one of the top 12 Class C volleyball teams in a pool of 107 programs statewide.
In addition, three Big Horns were voted to All-Conference teams by other coaches in the district.
Senior Luisa Locker earned the recognition for the third time in her high school career. Locker, a defensive specialist who consistently led the team in digs this season, was named First Team All-Conference.
Locker was joined by senior outside hitter Bella Butler, who put up strong numbers for aces and kills during the divisional tournament.
Junior setter Kuka Holder was named Second Team All Conference owing to her skillful assists and tips.
Phelps said she’s pleased with the Big Horns’ performance this year—Lone Peak posted a 12-3 record in regular season play and went 17-7 including the postseason. “This season was phenomenal,” Phelps said. “I could not be more proud of the way this team performed.”