At the beginning of the year, the Corvallis Blue Devils set a goal. They not only wanted to return to the state tournament but they wanted to go back to Bozeman as the Western A Divisional champions. Both coach Kasey Arceniega and player Taia Tully agree though, that although they aren’t the tallest team, nor even the best blockers, they are mentally tough and they don’t give up.
This tough attitude served the Blue Devils well during the three-day tournament. With the alignment in Class A, teams from the Northwest A and the Southwest A met at divisional to determine the top four teams who would advance to the state tournament this weekend in Bozeman. Although all these teams had played each other during the season, the intensity level was higher. Corvallis went into the tournament as the No. 2 seed from the Southwest, behind Butte Central, and even with the teams from the north, it came down to a battle between Butte Central and Corvallis for the championship.
Corvallis opened against Polson on Thursday. Polson has one of the top blockers in the conference, Nicole Lake, but the Blue Devils effectively kept her off the action and were able to run their offense. Behind the hitting of Hannah Capko and the defensive play of Holly Wilson, Ashley Davis and Taia Tully, who had 12 digs each; the Blue Devils topped Polson in three games.
Corvallis def. Polson, 25-18, 25-21, 25-14.
Kills – Corvallis 37 (Hannah Capko 13), Polson 18. Blocks – Corvallis 5 (Genesis Keith 3), Polson 4. Digs – Corvallis 56 (Holly Wilson 12, Ashley Davis 12, Taia Tully 12), Polson 29. Assists – Corvallis 36 (Wilson 32), Polson 18. Aces – Corvallis 17 (Tully 5), Polson 5.
Corvallis then advanced to play Columbia Falls. Although the WildKats took an early lead, a huge kill by Genesis Keith turned the tide for the Blue Devils. They were down by four points when Keith pounded the ball down. Corvallis came back to tie the game at 16 all and then take the lead. Columbia Falls didn’t go down without a fight however. The game went back and forth until Corvallis won, 25-23.
In the second game, Columbia Falls again took the lead but Corvallis pulled ahead when Hannah Capko made two kills in a row. A block by Maureen Jessop and another by the front line put Columbia Falls away, 25-20. The third game began the same way with Columbia Falls in the lead. But an ace by Katie Hurlbert turned the game around for Corvallis and they went on to win, 25-20.
Corvallis def. Columbia Falls, 25-23, 25-20, 25-20.
Kills – Corvallis 37 (Capko 15), Columbia Falls 29. Blocks – Corvallis 3 (Olivia Smart 1.5, Maureen Jessop 1.5), Columbia Falls 5. Digs – Corvallis 75 (Davis 17, Tully 16), Columbia Falls. Assists – Corvallis 33 (Wilson 30), Columbia Falls 25. Aces – Corvallis 8 (Kate Hurlbert 3), Columbia Falls 0.
With the win, Corvallis advanced to the undefeated game at noon on Saturday where they met up with Butte Central. Every match all season had been close and this was no exception. Corvallis couldn’t find their rhythm in the first game and had to play catch up ball the entire first game. Every time the momentum seemed to swing to Corvallis, Butte Central answered and added points. They won the first game, 16-25. The second game was a little closer in the beginning but Butte Central edged away and went on to win, 19-25.
Arceniega told the team after the second game, “this is how we beat them at home, we lost the first two sets and came back won the next three. I said that’s exactly how we beat them last time and we can do.”
The Blue Devils made a few adjustments and came back to play Game 3. It seemed as if the adjustments were working as Corvallis edged out to a five-point lead. But the Maroons are very competitive and came back to tie and then take the lead at 21-20. Tully had a big kill to take back the lead and then a tip over the defenders. Corvallis went on to win, 25-23.
Tully, who said her role on the team is to keep up the energy and be positive told her team, “We had three more games. Those games are ours.”
With the momentum shifting back to Corvallis, the Blue Devils went on the attack. The game was close early but then a couple of aces by Capko gave Corvallis the edge. Butte Central rallied and came back to tie but Corvallis didn’t give up. Keith made a big kill to put Corvallis up, 25-24 and then they won, 26-24.
That sent the match to Game 5. Butte Central took an early lead but Corvallis came back on a couple of Capko kills. The Maroons built up another lead and Tully had a kill and a block. Capko added an ace on the next serve. Butte Central scored one more point but that was it, Corvallis went on to win, 15-10, and advance to the championship match at 4 pm on Saturday.
Corvallis def. Butte Central, 16-25, 19-25, 25-23, 26-24, 15-10.
Kills – Central 51, Corvallis 64 (Capko 22, Tully 22). Blocks – Central 9, Corvallis 4 (Olivia Smart 2). Digs – Central 103, Corvallis 126 (Tully 28). Assists – Central 44, Corvallis 59 (Wilson 55). Aces – Central 8, Corvallis 13 (Wilson 4, Capko 4).
Unlike basketball, a volleyball tournament is a true double elimination tournament. Butte Central had to turn right around and play Columbia Falls who defeated Whitefish. The Maroons won that match at 2pm and advanced to the championship, their third match of the day.
Even though the Butte Central team was tired, they had their momentum going and came out playing tough. They cruised to a 15-25 win in the first game. But as Corvallis’ legs were gaining strength, Butte Central’s were getting tired. With the game tied at 7 all, a big block by Keith and then an ace by Capko turned the game around. Corvallis went on to win the second game, 25-15.
Corvallis took an early lead in the third game but an ace by Butte Central’s Whitney McGee gave the Maroons a jolt. They came back and tied the game and stayed with the Blue Devils for a few points. But a tip by Tully and an ace by Davis turned the game around and Corvallis won, 25-19. But Butte Central wasn’t done. They rallied back and led for most of Game 4. Corvallis came within a point of the Maroons but couldn’t take the lead. Butte Central won, 22-25, and sent the match to another Game 5.
“We just needed to keep pushing. We’re definitely a fighting team, I think that is one of our strong points,” said Capko.
It looked as if Butte Central was going to win in the crucial game. They led for the first 11 points before an ace by Davis put Corvallis up. Butte Central tied the game at 13 all but then an ace by Tully and then another ace sealed the championship for the Blue Devils.
“I’m proud of them,” said Arceniega. “It didn’t always go our way. But that’s volleyball. It was stressful. But stressful times are going to happen, pressure is going to happen. I felt that they dealt with it, enough to win.”
Corvallis def. Butte Central, 15-25, 25-15, 25-19, 22-25, 15-13.
Kills – Corvallis 65 (Tully 22),Central 43. Blocks – Corvallis 5 (M. Jessop 3), Central 9. Digs – Corvallis 116 (Davis 29), Central 88. Assists – Corvallis 59 (Wilson 55), Central 42. Aces – Corvallis 13 (Tully 4), Central 7.
Corvallis will play Hardin, the No. 4 seed from the east at 4pm on Thursday at the state tournament. Belgrade will play Whitefish, Butte Central will play Havre, and Billings Central will play Columbia Falls in the opening round at the Brick Breeden Field House at Montana State University in Bozeman. Belgrade is the 2014 state champion.