By Kim Staudinger
It took five games, but the Class A All-Stars defended their title Friday night at the ABC All-Star Volleyball Tournament, which took place at the Montana State University-Northern gym.
In the championship game, the Class A All-Stars got down early as Class C's DeLayne Johnston served seven straight points, including two aces, to give Class C a 9-1 lead. Johnston, from Richey, totaled four aces in the match.
The Class A All-Stars came back late in the game and took the lead 14-13 as Columbia Falls' Kristin Teeples served up two straight points. Following a timeout by the Class C squad, Chester's Katy Engstrom came back to serve and tied the game at 14. Two plays later, Chester teammate Michele VanDyke served two straight points, giving the Class C team a 16-14 win.
But the Class A team bounced back, led by the strong play of Kate Koyama at the net, and won the second game 15-9.
The Class C squad jumped on the Class A team in game 3. Manhattan Christian setter Carrie Strohecker, who stands at 5 foot 2, served four straight points to give the Class C team a 4-0 lead to start the third game. The lead never diminished as Johnston wrapped up the game, 15-7, with an ace.
Nearly seeing their three-peat disappear, the Class A team dominated game 4, winning 15-6, led by Park High's Teri Winfrey, who served six points in the game. With the score at 14-6, Belgrade's Mari Beitman came up to serve and ended the game with an ace.
With the fifth and final game set to rally scoring, the Class A squad took little time to win the title 15-11. Winfrey started the Class A scoring with two aces. Winfrey led all Class A players in the match with three aces. The team totaled seven.
Also leading the Class A team was Koyama with nine kills, Winfrey with 15 assists, Melissa Roth of Hardin with nine digs, and Beitman with five blocks.
Leading the Class C team was Johnston with four aces, nine kills and three blocks. Manhattan Christian's Lori Kimm added nine kills, Twin Bridges' Kendall Bradley led with 10 digs, and Strohecker had 31 assists.
Opening the tournament, the Class A team squeaked by the Class B team, winning 8-15, 8-15, 15-8, 16-14, 15-9. The Class B team was led by Roundup's Aliceson Hitchcock's four aces and 10 digs, with Choteau's Breanna Snyder adding three aces and 10 digs. Huntley Project's Sara Reger led with 13 kills, followed closely by Choteau's Becky Hartman with 12 kills. Leading with 13 assists was Roundup's Heidi Gildroy, and Chinook's Kelsie Whitney had 10. Tera O'Haire from Simms led with four of the team's seven blocks.
Playing in their second straight game, the Class B squad fell in three games to the Class C team, 15-5, 15-6, 15-9.
The Class C All-Stars had 19 total aces in the match, led by Strohecker with six. Strohecker also added 19 of the team's 20 assists. Chester standout Michele VanDyke, who was named the Gatorade Player of the Year, led the team in kills with six. Chester teammate Katy Engstrom had seven of the team's 32 digs, with Johnston leading with four of the team's 14 blocks.
Falling to 0-2 in the tournament, the Class B team was led by Gildroy with one ace and four assists. Whitney also added four assists, with Snyder tallying five kills. Hitchcock led with five digs, while Reger and Frenchtown's Chelsea Lofts each added one block.
Strohecker and Winfrey each received the setter award, with Roth and Manhattan Christian's Shawna Flikkema each receiving the defensive specialist award. Koyama and Johnston were named the tournament's Most Valuable Players.