��� POLSON 2014 VOLLEYBALL PREVIEW | Northwest Montana A Conference Girls' Volleyball | iHigh.com
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September 2, 2014
Northwest Montana A Conference




by John Heglie




The 2013 rendition of the Polson Lady Pirates (2-6 conference, 7-10 overall) volleyball team were ranked 2nd in the majority of NWA conference team statistical categories with the exception of blocking, but inconsistencies in regular schedule play resulted in a 4th-place seeding entering the NWA Divisional tournament they hosted.  The team swept both NWA Libby and SWA Stevensville along with dispatching District 7-B Thompson Falls to account for their five victories during the regular schedule, then swept Libby twice again during the tournament while falling to Frenchtown twice to move up the conference ladder by one rung with a 3rd place finish at Divisionals. 


The Lady Pirates graduated a quartet of seniors in basketball all-conference honorable mention  and softball all-state, four-time all-conference 1st-team  (p 14, if 13, of 12, ut 11) outside hitter Jessica “the Bomber” Bagnell (11 Aces, 77 Kills, 20 Asst, 9BS, 3BA, 96 Digs 2012-13),  volleyball all-conference honorable mention outside hitter Jessica “Hit It Hard” Hoel (10 Aces, 263 Kills, 10 Asst, 7BS, 3BA, 158 Digs 2011-13),  middle hitter Kaelyn “Killer Blocker” Binder (3 Aces, 52 Kills, 1 Asst, 16BS, 20 Digs 2013) and track & field twice all-conference shot putter as well as volleyball all-conference 2nd-team outside hitter Chloie “the Hammer” Huerta (15 Aces, 375 Kills, 1 Asst, 44BS, 136 Digs 2012-13).   An affliction of senioritis would also seem to have been influential factor underlying the unavailability of another pair who contributed to the roster last season in defensive specialist Dylan Quinn (1 Ace, 13 Asst, 25 Digs) and softball all-conference 1st-team as well as 14U ASA 2011 state champion  middle hitter Kaelen Wall (16 Aces,106 Kills, 2 Asst, 20BS, 6 BA, 53 Digs 2012-13).  



The Lady Pirates return seven seasoned seniors from the varsity roster last year.  The remainder of the roster continues to be in a state of flux at this juncture of the season.


Softball all-conference 1st-team as well as 14U ASA 2011 State Champion  and volleyball all-state, twice all-conference (1st-tm 13, 2nd-tm 12) senior 5-8 setter/defensive specialist Jaiden “Just Do It” Toth (80 Aces, 73 Kills, 502 Asst, 19BS, 2BA, 546 Digs career) was queen of the category among the NWA conference for assists last season.  She was  also ranked 2nd among the conference for both digs as well as aces.   In the spiking department, her kill efficiency looms among one of the higher percentages.   


Senior 5-0 libero Taylor “Dig It All” Davis (3 Aces, 231 Digs) would make an ideal spokesperson for Idaho car dealer Dave Smith Motors because of  how “low, low, low” she can get when intercepting a descending ball to dig it out before it touches the floor.  It is not uncommon for Davis to execute strategic defensive plays at crucial junctures of a contest, at times making interceptions of the ball that merit a special designation like “Mega-Dig” - an intercepted ball in which the effort and coordination involved is so impressive that it merits a higher point value than just a single dig acknowledgement. 


Senior 5-4 defensive specialist Libby “Can’t Touch This” Clay (6 Aces, 2 Kills, 169 Digs) is another defensive diggin dynamo who was part of a trio of Lady Pirates who were ranked among the TOP TEN in this category.  As her nickname suggests, she is an English specialist who implements a variety of wicked serve deliveries to draw from among her arsenal, baffling a receiver as to what direction the ball might be headed. 


Senior 5-4 defensive specialist  Sarah “Baby Buck” Rausch (5 Aces, 1 Kill, 152 Digs) was the fourth dapper diggin dynamo among the Lady Pirates to crest the century plateau for defensive digs.  Her hustle coupled with improved consistency at the service line places her among a multi-pronged assault that Polson players can execute against opposing teams.  


Tennis doubles all-conference senior 5-8 middle hitter Taylor “Rocket” Rost (5 Aces, 18 Kills, 1BS, 1BA, 16 Digs) is another weapon who can be launched to either put up a block or pound home a kill.   Rost was rockin the other side of the court in a nonconference win last season when she tallied over a third of the team aces.  


Softball all-conference 2nd-team senior 5-6 middle/opposite hitter Taylor Brackey has tallied 20 extra base hits over the course of  two combined seasons of both spring as well as summer softball, suggesting that she can drop the hammer in transition by slamming powerful zingers when she connects with a volleyball. 


Basketball all-conference honorable mention and softball 14U ASA 2011 State champion senior 5-6 outside hitter/defensive specialist Skyla Krantz has very quick reaction time.  This past summer she connected for a trio of extra base hits in softball, indications that she can deliver a punch when timing, strength and coordination align.


Basketball all-conference honorable mention and multi-event rodeo wrangler junior 5-10 middle hitter Nicole Lake has become adept at maneuvering uncooperative thousand pound plus sides of beef at county fairs as well as handling horses much taller than a volleyball net at rodeo arenas, so there is going to be little that an opposing team can throw her way that she is going to have much difficulty countering.


Softball all-conference honorable mention and 14U ASA 2011 state champion junior 5-6 outside hitter Lydia “Lightning” Dupuis (3 Aces, 2 BS, 41 Digs) is capable of contributing from either the offensive or defensive ends of the floor.   Dupuis can strike like a flash when attempting to intercept a ball and some of her hits seem to boom like claps of thunder when they make contact at the other end after being unleashed at full velocity.   Despite being a late addition to the roster, she led the team in service aces in a game toward the end of the regular season schedule.


Sophomore 5-9 middle/outside hitter Haley “Hang Time” Fyant (15 Aces 27 Kills, 3 BS, 20 Digs) will be showing up with greater regularity on the radar screen of opposing teams as she continues to refine an impressive jump serve technique that is like an overheate potato too hot to handle.  Fyant is one of those kinds of players with upside potential who can contribute at both the offensive as well as defensive ends of the floor.  


Track & Field throws placing (6th shot NWA Div) junior 5-7 setter/right side hitter Erin Sampson has superb upper torso strength that befits a surname shared in common with a certain biblical strongman.  Should timing, elevation and a bullseye hit all converge at optimum levels during a spiking event by Sampson, the opponent on the receiving end is liable to be in for a backlash bruising experience.


Sophomore 5-8 outside/middle hitter Lauren Lefthand has outside range shooting capability with a basketball, competes in 3-point shooting contests and  can sometimes make it rain with her sharpshooting.  As her mastery at the service line and spiking techniques develop, improvements in proficiency could spell trouble for opposing teams from anywhere on the court. 


The developmental volleyball squads tend to be comprised by an assortment of players spanning different academic stratifications, some of whom may see playing time at the next level in a reserve capacity as the development of their skill sets warrant reevaluation of their abilities to compete effectively at a subsequent level.  Non-senior varsity players may be called upon to platoon their time between both junior varsity as well as varsity contests.  Positions may be subject to modification or alternative deployments at any time.



The junior varsity roster tends to be typically comprised of both juniors as well as sophomores, any of whom could work their way into contributing at the varsity level in a reserve capacity as their development and mastery of skills demonstrate  their ability to contribute at that level.

Junior players include softball 10U ASA 2009 state champion middle hitter Julia Sanderson, tennis doubles all-conference defensive specialist Marlee Congdon, tennis doubles multi-match magnifico libero Shawna Lenz and track & field throws all-state (4th jav), twice all-conference (2nd, 5th jav) setter Mariah Corrigan.

Sophomore players include outside hitters Siera Donovan along with track jumps placing (6th tj NWA Div) as well as all-conference hurdler (4th 300h) Chadelle Smith, middle/outside hitter Hannah Fryberger and setter/defensive specialist Ashley Benson.



Players contributing to the froshmore squad include sophomore outside hitter/defensive specialist Josie Breining as well as incoming freshmen Selica Auld, Laurel Bitterman, Charlee Cote, Kiera Den Dekker, Tarryn Gravelle, Darbee Jore-Lytle, Jaylynn Leadercharge, Kyler Lundeen, Sam Nield, Faith Olson, Makayla Robinson and Kaelyn Smith.




Head coach Jan Toth embarks upon her 8th season (21st overall) at the helm of the Lady Pirate volleyball team, aided by 2nd year assistant coach Patty Luetzen and froshmore coach Bonnie Klein.  Despite the Lady Pirates being ranked 2nd in the majority of NWA conference team statistical categories, the team finished fourth in the standings at the end of the regular schedule, largely due to inconsistencies in team play.  Polson succeeded in moving up a rung of the NWA conference hierarchical ladder when they captured 3rd place at the divisional tournament, but they were unable to displace league leaders Frenchtown or Columbia Falls.  


As the team embarks upon a new season, returnees provide a solid core around which to integrate new contributors who can contend with a coordinated attack against teams that gave them trouble last year as well as those who benefited from their postseason experiences.  The Lady Pirates return 7 players who accounted for almost 70 percent of the service aces and 83 points it delivered from the service line last season, but they must make up for the vacancies created by departed spikers who accounted for over 80 percent of their kill totals that exceeded over 500 spikes.  The defense appears to be in grand shape with a quartet of players who tallied over 150 digs each and a team of returnees who accounted for over 70 percent of this crucial defensive category in excess of over 900 digs.  Consequently, focus will be upon honing the offensive attack to get players to synchronize their timing with their deliveries to help bridge the gap in spiking department. 


A cursory glance at last year’s team rosters may provide a few clues as to how the Lady Pirates might stack up against the rest of the  competition around the NWA conference.  Libby only graduated a pair of seniors and returns a roster laden with seniors similar to that of  Polson.  The Lady Pirates may have had Libby’s number last season as their skirmishes accounted for a quartet of their wins, but the Lady Loggers only needed to tweak a few aspects and refine some of their spiking as well as serving techniques for them to give a lot of teams a heap full of trouble.   They return a pair of all-conference 2nd-team selectees in Hannah England and Mahalah Wedel. Whitefish swept Polson last season, while Libby swept Whitefish for a veritable three ring circus among this trio of teams.  The Lady Bulldogs graduated both of their all-conference accolade recipients as well as another pair of players, but return a quartet of seniors and a pair of juniors from last year’s roster.  Columbia Falls would have to be rated the most improved conference team last season as they really gelled at the Divisional tournament to take out previously undefeated Frenchtown for the top seeding heading to state.  The Kats graduated a pair of  athletes that included all-state Haley Belgarde, but return an equal number seniors as the Polson roster, which could spell trouble for the rest of the conference.  Conference regular schedule crown winner Frenchtown was 13-1 overall and undefeated in conference prior to the divisional tournament and may have graduated the most with the departure of an all-state collegiate bound player, another pair of all-conference accolade recipients as well as two others, but they return all-state power hitter Morgan Ray as well as a quintet of returning varsity seniors as well as perhaps a few others moving up from the junior varsity.  Polson defense appears to be ready to deny with its lineup and the service line looks strong, but the Lady Pirates will want to bring their firepower up to speed to give themselves a chance to prevail against the likes of what the rosters of the other teams around the conference appear to look like.   


The Polson volleyball season opens with the NWA vs SWA Tip-Off Tournament hosted by Frenchtown the weekend of 5-6 September.  The first home stand for the Lady Pirates will take place against Frenchtown on Thursday the 11th of September.


NWA volleyball stats compiled by Terry Werner and derived from NWA conference website < www.ihigh.com/nwmta >



An abridged version of this article entitled “Lady Pirate Volleyball” is featured in print with the Lake County LEADER (28 August 2014) B1-2.




Fall 2014

CFalls - Chris Peterson, “Wildkat volleyball team is tall and athletic,” Hungry Horse News (Wed. 27 August 2014) .

CLASS A - David Lesnick, “Volleyball Previews: Western AA, … Class A,… Class B,… MCAA,” Daily InterLake (Sat. 30 August 2014), B1,8.

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