By Tiffany L. Rehbein
LEWISTOWN The Chester Coyotes accomplished one of its goals, but fell short at the end of the State Class C volleyball tournament during the weekend.
The Circle Wildcats, the No. 2 seed from the Eastern Division, knocked the Coyotes from the tournament 15-2, 15-7, 6-15, 12-15, 15-13 at Fergus County High School on Friday.
"We made it to one of our goals," Chester Head Coach Don Van Dessel said. "We wanted to try to be playing our best volleyball by mid-March, and I think that we were. It takes a lot of effort to just get back there."
Five-foot-10 sophomore Michele Van Dyke had 25 kills and two blocks to lead the Chester attack.
Sophomore setter Jamie Graham tallied 31 assists and 25 of the team's 100 digs in the contest.
Carlane Jensen, a 5-foot-10 junior, contributed two blocks, while senior Devan Lalum had three aces in the effort.
Sarah Murphy led the Wildcats with 19 kills, while Kaylee Kountz tallied 25 digs in the win.
"We just got caught in a mental breakdown there in that rally score," Van Dessel said.
The Coyotes had dropped four-straight rally score matches at the end of the season, including two during the Northern Divisional championship matches.
Chester, the No. 2 seed from the North, opened the tournament with a 15-9, 15-12, 15-3 win over the No. 1-seeded Granite County Prospectors from the West on Thursday.
The Coyotes fell to the eventual state champion Richey Royals 6-15, 15-8, 15-11, 16-14, 15-13 on Thursday evening.
"We pushed Richey to the limit," Van Dessel said. "We probably played them stronger than anybody else down there."
During the rally score game, Chester held a 12-11 lead, but a Coyote net violation gave Richey the point and side-out en route to the win.
Jensen led the Coyotes with 15 kills, five blocks, and 10 digs in the contest.
"Some of our girls started to bring the heat, but we got into that Mexican playoff (rally score), as I call it, and and we kind of broke down," Van Dessel said. "Fundamentally, we played well and we had our chances."
Katy Engstrom, a 5-foot-9 sophomore, had seven kills, while Van Dyke notched two blocks and five aces in the effort.
"One of our big keys this year was the young kids who didn't see a lot of time on the court, but who helped us tremendously in practice," Van Dessel said. "We never did do a lot of substituting. We carried 15 kids and those who didn't start just did so much for us on the practice floor."
State tournament MVP Robyn Milne of Richey had 28 kills, five blocks, and three aces to lead the Royals in the win.
Milne, a 6-foot-2 junior, was also the state tournament MVP at the girls' basketball tournament, which the Royals won, capping off a 27-0 season in December.
Richey entered the tournament the No. 1 seed from the East, boasting a 37-0 record. The Royals finished the season 40-0.
DeLayne Johnston, a 5-foot-10 sophomore, had 20 kills, two blocks, and 11 digs for Richey.
Junior setter Keri Zieske had 38 assists and three aces.
Karly Buller, a junior outside hitter, had 11 digs and five aces, while junior Megan Hostetler also tallied 11 digs.
"We came from a tough conference," Van Dessel said. Chester and Harlowton, who finished third at state, represented the Northern Division. "There was some pretty good volleyball played down there."
Richey defeated the Twin Bridges Falcons 15-12, 15-8, 15-9 in the championship match.
Milne had 17 kills and eight blocks in the win.
Johnston had 11 kills and 10 digs, while lone senior Melissa Colbert tallied 10 digs.
Zieske had 34 assists and 12 digs, while Hostetler and Buller dropped in three and two aces, respectively.
It was Richey's first state volleyball title, and head coach Monica Switzer's first crown.
Switzer led the Royals to a third-place finish last year, her first full season at the helm of the program. She had led Circle, where she formerly coached, to the tournament four different times.
Romi Anderson led the Falcons, the No. 1 seed from the South, with seven kills, one block, nine digs, and two aces.
The Richey Royals are the only Class C girls' team in state history to claim both the basketball and volleyball title during the same school year.