Throughout the season, Florence has prepared for the tough teams that make it to state. The Southern B conference in particular is extremely tough and deep. The Falcons played a tournament in Choteau where they played a couple of teams from the south. They also played in a tournament in Boulder where they played the Jefferson County team, their first foe of the state tournament.
The first match was a rough one, according to Florence coach Christy Duchein. She said that at an earlier tournament, the two teams had learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The Falcons won the first two games and then Jefferson County went to work and won the next three games to take the match and send the Falcons into the consolation bracket.
“They weren’t happy,” Duchein said of her team. “They knew we had work to do. We had to ‘get gritty’.”
She said it was a prime opportunity for her team to step up for the next match and they did. She told her team that especially at the state level, everyone is going to play all out and leave it all on the court every single set.
That is exactly what Florence did in their next game which was against Fairfield, Florence won decisively in three games behind a tough back row defense that didn’t let many balls drop. Behind the play of Rylee Mangun at the net who had 13 kills and Hudsyn Doty-DiBrito who had 15 digs, the Falcons had the win and one step towards playing on Saturday.
The Falcons next faced Three Forks, a team they had played at one of the early tournaments. Although they only won by three points in two games and four in the third game, the Falcons still won in three games.
Meanwhile, on the winners’ side of the bracket, Jefferson County ran into the tough team of Huntley Project and lost. That set up another match between Florence and Jefferson County. The match was the reverse of their first match on Thursday. Jefferson County won the first two games and then Florence went to work. According to Duchein, every point was a battle and her team had to just win each point. The battle raged until 10:30 Friday night but Florence came away the victor in five games.
After three games on Friday, the team was tired said Duchein. “So we fed them power bars and got them to play on Saturday.”
The next game determined who would finish in third place. Joliet was the No. 3 seed from the South and had lost to Huntley Project in the semi final game on Friday. Florence won the first game but then lost the next two before pulling together and winning the match in five games.
The win put Florence into the championship game against Huntley Project who won in three games. Duchein said Huntley Project doesn’t make a lot of errors. “When we made unforced errors, they capitalized on it.”
Florence finished in second place, the best in school history. “We’re a young team,” according to Duchein. “It was a team effort, even down to the girls on the bench, cheering them on. It’s a cool accomplishment.”
Jefferson County def. Florence 16-25, 21-25, 25-23, 25-23, 15-10
Jefferson County – Kills 47 (Emily McGinnis 22). Blocks 16 (Ellie Evertz 6). Digs 64 (Haydin Henschel 22). Assists Aubrey McMaster 29). Aces 2 (McMaster 2).
Florence – Kills 65 (Sarah Hopcroft 23). Blocks – 10 (Rilee Mangun 4). Digs 95 (Hudsyn Doty-DiBrito 29). Assists 60 (Shay Waldbillig 60). Aces 9 (Mangun 4)
Florence def. Fairfield 25-14, 25-18, 25-21
Florence – Kills: 45 (Mangun 13). Blocks: 5 (Jacklyn Balford 3). Digs: 37 (DiBrito 15). Assists: 38 (Waldbillig 36). Aces: 6 (Destini Greer. 3).
Fairfield: Kills: 23 (Kenna Pitcher 7). Assists: 21 (Emily Coltfelter 9). Aces: 3 (Chesney Rogers 2). Digs: 42 (Coltfelter 10). Blocks: 14 (Rogers 8).
Florence def. Three Forks 25-22, 25-22, 25-21
Florence: Kills: 40 (Hopcroft 14). Blocks: 4 (Mangun 2). Digs: 57 (Doty-DiBrito 23). Assists: 36 (Waldbillig 35). Aces: 7 (Waldbillig 3).
Three Forks: Kills: 30 (Morgan Allen 16). Assists: 28 (Kyle Olson 16). Aces: 2 (Heather Wilson, Shainy Mack 1). Digs: 65 (Mack 17). Blocks: 8 (Allen 5).
Florence def. Jefferson 21-25, 20-25, 25-16, 25-14, 15-10
Florence: Kills: 59 (Hopcroft 21). Blocks: 12 (Emma Stensrud 7). Digs: 88 (Doty-DiBrito 31). Assists: 44 (Waldbillig 44). Aces: 7 (Hopcroft 2, Shannon Byrne 2).
Jefferson: Kills: 42 (Emmiley McGinnis 22). Assists: 35 (Aubrey McMaster 34). Aces: 3 (McMaster 2). Digs: 74 (Hayden Henchel 26). Blocks: 4 (Ellie Evertz 3).
Loser takes third
Florence def. Joliet, 25-18, 20-25, 16-25, 25-21, 15-11
Florence: Kills 60 (Hopcroft 19, Byrne 18). Blocks 7 (Stensrud 4). Digs 78 (Doty-DiBrito 23). Assists 50 (Waldbillig 50). Aces 5 (Brooklyn Little 2).
Joliet: Kills 55 (Makenna Bushman 19). Blocks 5 (Vanessa Nowak 2). Digs 103 (Shayla Webber 22, Joelle Luoma 21). Assists 52 (Luoma 25). Aces 7 (Three with 2).
Huntley Project def. Florence, 25-17, 25-22, 25-20
Florence: Kills 28 (Hopcroft 17). Blocks 9 (Mangun 6). Digs 35 (Doty-DiBrito 11). Assists 22 (Waldbillig 22). Aces 3 (Hopcroft 2).
Huntley Project: Kills 42 (Alana Graves 14). Blocks 3 (Graves 2). Digs 77 (Kamille Reynolds 18). Assists 39 (Heidi Cranford 21). Aces 2 (Two with 1).