Senior Brook Luly dives to keep the ball alive against Florence during Thursday’s State Tournament opener.

The Shelby volleyball team traveled to Bozeman to the State Class B tournament hoping to bring home some hardware but fell just short of their goal. They played three games, beating Florence in their opening match in five games, but losing to Huntley Project and conference rival Choteau. 

Coach Jessica Brusven was pleased to announce four players earned all-conference and all-state awards this season. Maddison Underdal was selected first team all-conference and all-state, Bailey Johnson was selected first team all-conference, and Brook Luly and Kendall Anderson were selected second team all-conference.

Looking back on state tourney action, Shelby opened with Florence, the No. 1 seed from the west, and last year’s second place State finisher. Brusven felt having the opportunity to play Florence in the regular season was key to their win. They knew that they could play right with them, but also knew they would have to play well to come away with a victory. 

“The girls really stepped up and played well. It really took a team effort from everyone on the floor and a supportive bench,” said Brusven. “Momentum really played a big factor in the match.”

Shelby got off to a great start winning the first game of the set 26-24. Florence bounced back to win the second game 14-25. Shelby took the third game 25-23, and the fourth game went to Florence 17-25. Shelby won the final and deciding game 15-10. 

Shelby had 13 aces. Bailey Johnson served 16 for 16, and Brielle Aklestad, who served 14 for 14, each had three aces to lead the team. Kendall Anderson also went 100% on her serves going 17 for 17. 

Maddison Underdal led the team in kills with 19, Johnson chipped in 13, and Brook Luly had 12. Johnson also led the team with a season-high 25 assists, and Luly added 18. 

Underdal had a team-high three blocks, and Luly and Johnson had 15 and 14 digs, respectively, to lead the team. They were followed by Aklestad with 13, and 11 each for Brogan McAllister and Reese Whitted.

The victory against Florence set up a match with the defending state champions, and winners of their last 97 matches, Huntley Project.

“Huntley is a very disciplined and fundamentally strong team. They pass very well and hit the ball well. Hence the reason for 97 match wins in a row and they had only lost two sets the entire season. They  scored their 98th win against us,” said Brusven.

“We had some great rallies, but didn’t have enough to take down the Devils. They run a very fast offense and we struggled to get a block up quick enough,” she added.

Shelby lost to Huntley in three games, 15-25, 13-25, and 16-25. The Coytoes were led in kills by Underdal with 14 and Johnson with five. Johnson again led in assists with 12 and Luly had seven. Underdal and Johnson led the team in digs with 13 each, Aklestad added 10, Whitted had eight and three came from Avery Hoover.

After losing to Huntley, the Coyotes were bumped down to the bottom of the bracket where they faced Choteau late Friday afternoon. 

“Choteau is a very disciplined team and just doesn’t make easy mistakes,” said Brusven. “They pass the ball very well.” Shelby recorded just one ace in the match.

The Coyotes were eliminated from tourney action losing in three games 22-25, 20-25, and 7-25. 

McAllister had Shelby’s lone ace of the match. Johnson had a team-high 11 kills, and Underdal had five. Luly led the team in assists with 13 and Johnson collected 11. Underdal came up with five of the team’s nine blocks, and Aklestad led the team with 14 digs, followed closely by Whitted with 11. 

“This tournament was a prime example of the luck of the draw, or bracket. We played all three No. 1 teams– Choteau from the north, Huntley from the south, and Florence from the west. I am very proud of the girls this season and appreciate the opportunity to work with them and help them grow as volleyball players and young ladies,” said Brusven.

“We really made some great improvements skill-wise as well as overall players. We are definitely going to miss the seniors as players and leaders. They worked hard in the offseason and throughout the volleyball season. They were also great mentors to the younger girls on and off the court,” praised Brusven.

“Makayla Haight, Avery Hoover, and Alexis McCracken didn’t play a lot in our matches but played an important role at practice pushing the other girls daily in drills and games,” continued Brusven. 

“We also had some great younger players that really helped out along the way and will play a key role in the program next year. Junior Maddison Underdal was a force at the net and on defensive. Sophomores Vivi McDermott and Blair Luly were also on the tournament roster. Adria Lamb, Jori Clary, and Jaci Johannes were tournament alternates,” said Brusven.

 “We sincerely appreciate all of the support throughout the season and at the state tournament. We would also like to thank KSEN for broadcasting our games and the Shelby Promoter for reporting on our games all season,” noted Brusven.

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