By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsfirstname.lastname@example.org
The Chinook High volleyball team barely survived the District 1B volleyball tournament last weekend, finishing in fourth place. The key word to Chinook head coach Doug Hayes is "survived."
While fourth place wasn't where Hayes figured his team would end up in district tournament play, it was still good enough to get them to this weekend's North-East B divisional tournament, which just happens to be on the Beeters' home floor in Chinook. It also leaves hope for Chinook to make a return trip to state after last year's third-place finish.
"We lost a key middle hitter in Kassie Dugan to an ankle injury on Monday and she just couldn't go last weekend," Hayes said. "We didn't control the net throughout that tournament and our serve-receive was not as solid as it normally is.
"Kassie will be able to play this weekend though," Hayes added. "And we have been working hard this week in practice to shore up the things we didn't do very well last weekend."
The Beeters opened divisional play this morning at 10 a.m. against District 2B champion Glasgow. The Beeters and Scotties have met four times this season with each team winning twice. Glasgow beat Chinook in the Malta Invitational on the opening weekend of the season and the Beeters returned the favor the next weekend at the Chinook Invitational.
During the regular season the two teams split their meetings, each winning on its home floor. With a spot in the semifinals on the line Friday morning and only two state tournament berths available this season, the fifth meeting is a big one, according to Hayes.
"We have had some very good matches with Glasgow this season," Hayes said. "They are a very well coached team and they have a great player at the net in Tiffany Waters.
"Whoever controls the net in the match and whoever puts up the better block will probably have the upper hand."
Besides Dugan, Chinook also gets solid hitting from senior outside hitter Whitney Lybeck and junior Morgan Obie. Setters Crystal Roseberry and Andrea Eslick are solid, while Monica Thackeray is the team's best back row player and server.
Of course the Glasgow/Chinook match is just one of four intriguing opening round matches on Friday. Cut Bank will play Plentywood at noon followed by District 1B champion Shelby taking on Wolf Point at 2 p.m. The final matchup of the first round will pit Malta and Fairfield at 4 p.m. With several of the top teams in all of Class B volleyball gathered in Chinook, Hayes said this weekend could be a wide open race between as many as five teams battling for the two state tournament berths.
"Obviously, the winner of our first round match will have a good shot at getting to state," Hayes said "But there are a lot of very good teams and we should be pretty even.
"Shelby was the best team at our district tournament last weekend and they are playing very well right now," Hayes added. "You also have to look at Fairfield and Cut Bank because they are very strong teams as well."
The top teams from the Northeast B divisional tournament will advance to the All-Class state tournament next weekend in Bozeman. The North-East B tournament got underway this morning at 10 a.m. with the Scotties and Beeters squaring off. The tournament will conclude with the championship match scheduled to get begin at 6 p.m. on Saturday and all the action will take place the Chinook High School gymnasium.