Lady Pioneers drop pair, make tourney semi


October 9, 2019

It was the best of times.

It was the worst of times.

An up-and-down week witnessed the Big Sandy varsity volleyball squad play what coach Brittany McKenney called their most complete match of the season but come out flat for a home-gym tilt with the 6C East frontrunner. They then traveled Saturday to the North Star Invitational where they finished in the top half of competitors.

The Lady Pioneers traveled Oct. 1 to Highwood, to face a foe who defeated them the week prior in their home opener.

Big Sandy started strong with a 25-17 set victory before dropping the next two sets, 25-22 and 25-11. They bounced back to take the fourth set, 25-21 and lost an agonizing 15-13 finale.

"Overall, I was really proud of the girls because I think that is the best performance we have shown," McKenney said. "We came out very strong. We were talking (on the court). Everything was falling into place."

So much so that the Pioneers held a 13-8 lead in the last set, before surrendering a final run to the Rivals that dashed their hopes for a road upset.

"Obviously, we didn't finish like we wanted to," McKenney said, but added the match had been a spectacular one to watch, filled with lengthy volleys and gutsy efforts. The Pioneers recorded a whopping 96 kills as a team, led by 54 from senior libero Amanda Cline, in response to the Rivals' attack.

"Amanda had an awesome night," McKenney said. "She's been killing it as the libero."

Senior Amanda Cline added 22 assists, junior Alicia Bjornestad recorded 7 kills and senior Stacey Allderdice had half her team's four blocks. Cline and Anna Allderdice shared a team-high of 3 aces.

The league-leading Chinook Sugarbeeters came to visit Friday night and made quick work of downing the Pioneers 25-6, 25-19 and 25-8.

"We struggled tonight," McKenney said, after the match. "It wasn't just in one area or one thing, just all across the board unfortunately. Our energy just wasn't there tonight and we weren't communicating. That's what made us fall apart ... they're a tough team and it's really tough when we aren't doing the little things right."

The Pioneers' defense and serving were noticeably stronger in the middle set.

"Our passing was probably just a bit better that second set, too," McKenney said.

Seniors Gregory and Seanna Demontiney each tallied an ace in the set and Amiya Griffith also put down the team's lone block on the night. Cline again finished with a team-high 15 digs, Gregory led with 6 assists and Bjornestad added 3 kills.

Freshman Laynee Ophus made her first start in the Chinook match and displayed some powerful hitting.

"We hope to get her more integrated and more comfortable playing with the (varsity)," McKenney said.

Traveling north to the Hi-Line for the North Star Invitational Saturday, the Pioneers finished fourth among eight teams. In pool play, Big Sandy beat the Shelby JV, 25-21, 25-14; lost to North Star, 25-15, 25-10 and split with Dutton-Brady, (21-25), 25-13. The Pioneers won the overall points-scored tiebreaker to advance to the semifinals, where they fell to Power, 25-18, 25-22, 15-12. Chester-Joplin-Inverness beat Big Sandy in the third-place match, 25-20, 25-22.

"Overall, we played a good day of volleyball," McKenney said. "We tried some new rotations and this was the perfect time to try it. Our positivity and our effort (were) there. We just need to work on finishing and communicating."


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