Starting Thursday, a finally healthy Anaconda volleyball team has an opportunity to regain control of their season when eight teams meet for a chance to advance to the 2018 State B tournament in Bozeman.
On the bottom half of the bracket, the Copperheads (7-10, 2-6) will take on Eureka in the first round of the Western B divisional tournament in Florence at 2:30 p.m. followed by Deer Lodge/Thompson Falls at 4:15. The winners will meet at 7:45 that evening while the losers will meet Friday at 12:45.
The top bracket features tournament-favorite Florence and Mission at 11 a.m. and Loyola and Bigfork at 12:45. The winner will meet in the first semifinal at 6 p.m while the losers kick off Fridays action at 11 a.m.
Coming into the tournament, Anaconda is on a four-match losing streak, a fact that is not lost when speaking with Copperheads head coach Shane Jorgensen.
“Our goal has never been to play our best volleyball during the regular season. Those games have been looked at as practice for the postseason,” said Jorgensen, in his second year at the helm. “I think the girls like playing the role of the underdog. There’s a good chance teams are overlooking us because of our record, and that suits us just fine.”
It’s not a truly fair assessment to say the losing streak was all bad, especially since three of the four losses were to Florence and twice to Deer Lodge – the Nos. 1-2 ranked teams in the 6B, respectively. Jorgensen admits it does help the narrative of playing a tough schedule when addressing his team.
“You know it eases the pain a little bit, but we’ve talked all season about coming together for divisionals,” he said.
One positive heading into the tournament is his team is healthy and hungry to take their game to the next level.
“I can’t tell you how nice it is to have our health back. It seems like the last time we were all healthy was just before our match against Jefferson High (Sept. 13),” Jorgensen said. “Ladies are excited about our first round match. They have practiced with a confidence I haven’t seen since the first few weeks of the season.”
Anaconda should be confident. Earlier this season, Anaconda beat Eureka 3-1 on Aug. 31.
During that win, junior Logan Stetzner and sophomore Brianna Puyear lead the team with a combined 13 kills. The story is the same leading into Thursday’s match as the duo lead the team with 102 and 93 kills, respectively.
Jorgensen isn’t worried about his offense, but he is concerned about the trouble the team has had from the service line. In fact he placed a specific emphasis on it for the tournament.
“Serving and keeping passes on our side of the net – these two things happen and it sets our offense in motion,” Jorgensen said.
Those keys will come from juniors Clair Miller (37) and Stetzner (31), who lead the team in aces.
Leading into the offense, Stetzner (200) and junior Macy Matosich (148) account for 348 of the 360 assists.
Defensively, senior Lindsey Seitzinger leads the team in digs (198) followed by Miller (141). (All season stats minus tip off tournament below)
After each match, follow along with the team here as they push towards the State B tournament