BOZEMAN – Jayde LeFevre was so hoarse she could barely be heard.
No matter. The look on the face of Laurel’s senior setter – in fact, the look on the faces of the entire Locomotives volleyball team – told it all.
The Locomotives won two championship matches on Saturday afternoon, beating the Frenchtown Broncs 25-23, 22-25, 25-22, 25-22 and then 25-17, 26-24, 25-19 at the State A tournament to claim the school’s first volleyball title.
In fact, it’s the first volleyball trophy of any sort for the Locomotives, who went through a roller-coaster of a season before finding their groove at Brick Breeden Fieldhouse.
“It was a matter of wanting it,” said LeFevre, her voice strained and cracking. “We wanted it way more, it felt. Plus, I think we deserve it, because nobody (at Laurel) has ever done this.”
LeFevre and coach Jen Ebright said the Locomotives heard too many times that Belgrade and Billings Central were the favorites to win the tournament. They wanted the chance to prove otherwise, and they did.
The Locomotives beat Belgrade in the first round of the tournament and then defeated Central – a team that had beaten Laurel four times this season – in Saturday morning’s third-place match to set up the championship.
Then the Locomotives' task was to beat the team that had just swept them the night before in the unbeaten semifinals, and beat them twice. Amanda Taylor, who had 24 kills in the two championship matches, said there was never any doubt among her teammates.
“We came out knowing in our hearts that we could do this,” Taylor said. “I think before sometimes we were kind of iffy, like, ‘well, we can do it, but maybe not.’ But today we believed in ourselves and had the heart, and we did it.”
They did it by controlling the middle of the floor – Dalayna Christenson added 21 kills on the day and Callen Rosselot 19 – and by simply gathering steam. In the second championship, the Locomotives held off four match points and scored six straight on a serving run by Taylor to overcome a 24-19 deficit.
And in set three, they built an 18-10 lead before finally finishing off the Broncs, who got 24 kills from Morgan Ray in the first championship match and eight from Jadan Ross in the second.
“In midseason I was having my doubts whether we would even make it here,” said Ebright, whose team was just the third seed in the Eastern A when divisional play began two weeks ago. “The girls were like, ‘Nope, we’re going, we’re going.’ They stepped it up at the end of the season and we got here and we just had to go out and play, and play hard.”
Frenchtown, too, wasn’t expected to get this far. The Broncs won just five matches in the regular season, but their great postseason run – Frenchtown won a combined seven divisional and state matches – just ran out of gas. The Broncs had late leads in five of the Saturday’s seven sets, but managed to hang on and win just the one set.
“They set their hearts on first place, but we’re so proud of second,” said first-year coach Gypsy Ray, who has no seniors on her roster. “We really, really are. It’s just hard on the heart right now.”
Laurel def. Frenchtown, 25-23, 22-25, 25-22, 25-22.
Kills – Laurel 54 (Amanda Taylor 16), Frenchtown 51 (Morgan Ray 24). Blocks – Laurel 6 (Taylor 2.5), Frenchtown 3 (Faith Bauer 2). Digs – Laurel 154 (Bailey Kennedy 57), Frenchtown 71 (Jadan Ross 18). Assists – Laurel 45 (Jayde LeFevre 45), Frenchtown 43 (Josie Anderson 22). Aces – Laurel 9 (LeFevre 4), Frenchtown 8 (Vanessa Stavish 3).
Laurel def. Frenchtown, 25-17, 26-24, 25-19.
Kills – Laurel 35 (Dalayna Christenson 10), Frenchtown 25 (Jadan Ross 8). Blocks – Laurel 12 (Christenson 4), Frenchtown 9 (Faith Bauer 5). Digs – Laurel 142 (Bailey Kennedy 27, Josie Gordon 27), Frenchtown 66 (Ross 13). Assists – Laurel 28 (Jayde LeFevre 25), Frenchtown 22 (Josie Anderson 10). Aces – Laurel 4 (LeFevre 2), Frenchtown 4 (Anderson 2, Haley Cyr 2).