Lady Dogs head to state following fourth-place finish at divisionals

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  • Kaiah Moore rises for the kill against Dillon in the Western A Divisional Tournament last week at Whitefish High School. (Daniel McKay/Whitefish Pilot)

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    Luci Ridgeway rises for the spike against Dillon in the Western A Divisional Tournament last week at Whitefish High School. (Daniel McKay/Whitefish Pilot)

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    Mikenna Ells celebrates with her teammates in the Western A Divisional Tournament last week at Whitefish High School. (Daniel McKay/Whitefish Pilot)

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    Marlee Bender smashes the ball against Dillon in the Western A Divisional Tournament last week at Whitefish High School. (Daniel McKay/Whitefish Pilot)

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    Kaiah Moore gets the kill against Stevensville in the Western A Divisional Tournament last week at Whitefish High School. (Daniel McKay/Whitefish Pilot)

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    Kaiah Moore makes the diving play against Stevensville in the Western A Divisional Tournament last week at Whitefish High School. (Daniel McKay/Whitefish Pilot)

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    The Lady Dogs celebrate a point against Stevensville in the Western A Divisional Tournament last week at Whitefish High School. (Daniel McKay/Whitefish Pilot)

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    Jasmine Matern dives for the ball against Columbia Falls in the Western A Divisional Tournament last week at Whitefish High School. (Daniel McKay/Whitefish Pilot)

  • Kaiah Moore rises for the kill against Dillon in the Western A Divisional Tournament last week at Whitefish High School. (Daniel McKay/Whitefish Pilot)

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    Luci Ridgeway rises for the spike against Dillon in the Western A Divisional Tournament last week at Whitefish High School. (Daniel McKay/Whitefish Pilot)

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    Mikenna Ells celebrates with her teammates in the Western A Divisional Tournament last week at Whitefish High School. (Daniel McKay/Whitefish Pilot)

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    Marlee Bender smashes the ball against Dillon in the Western A Divisional Tournament last week at Whitefish High School. (Daniel McKay/Whitefish Pilot)

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    Kaiah Moore gets the kill against Stevensville in the Western A Divisional Tournament last week at Whitefish High School. (Daniel McKay/Whitefish Pilot)

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    Kaiah Moore makes the diving play against Stevensville in the Western A Divisional Tournament last week at Whitefish High School. (Daniel McKay/Whitefish Pilot)

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    The Lady Dogs celebrate a point against Stevensville in the Western A Divisional Tournament last week at Whitefish High School. (Daniel McKay/Whitefish Pilot)

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    Jasmine Matern dives for the ball against Columbia Falls in the Western A Divisional Tournament last week at Whitefish High School. (Daniel McKay/Whitefish Pilot)

The Lady Dogs are headed to the state tournament.

After finishing fourth overall in the Western A Divisional Tournament over the weekend, Whitefish will open tournament play against Belgrade on Thursday.

The last time the team made the state tournament was in 2016.

Whitefish took down Dillon and Stevensville in divisional play on Thursday and Friday, but fell to Corvallis and Columbia Falls.

Head coach Addy Connelly said she’s content with making the state tournament, but she was expecting a better final performance against the Wildkats from her team.

“It didn’t turn out as well as we’d hoped, I’m excited that we’re headed to state but I would’ve liked to have gotten at least third or second,” she said. “But state is state, so here we go.”

Mental toughness was the issue for her team in that final match, Connelly said, and easy mistakes plagued the Lady Dogs.

Columbia Falls played on the offensive as well, racking up 33 kills to the Lady Dogs’ 23 and 10 aces to Whitefish’s two.

“That’s what we’ve been battling all year, that mental toughness. It’s not that we’re not conditioned and ready to go — we’re physically there and very capable of taking those games — but we make a lot of mental errors. I’m never quite sure which team I’m going to get, the team that’s mentally tough and ready to rock and roll or the team that has self-doubt, and against C-Falls that’s where we were. The locker room was pretty quiet after that loss.”

The wins against Dillon and Stevi were more indicative of her team’s strengths, Connelly said.

The team combined for 71 kills, 58 assists and 11 aces in those two games.

“Our middles were getting more opportunities which is helpful for our offense all around,” Connelly said. “Our passing was a little bit better, and our serving was a little more on point than it has been, fewer errors there. That’s always helpful if you can serve and pass to get things going.”

The team heads out to Bozeman Wednesday afternoon, and will hit the court Thursday against Belgrade.

Connelly said while her team hasn’t yet faced Belgrade this season, she was able to watch them play at a tournament in Butte earlier in the year.

“They are tall, they’re big girls. They hit the ball hard and they’re well-oiled machine,” she said. “You could tell they played together for awhile.”

While the obvious goal for the tournament is to finish on top, Connelly said she’s really hoping to just see her team bring intensity to the court.

“Just a lot of intense competitive games, that’s the goal at this point,” she said. “You go to state hoping to be on top. If we aren’t on the top I’m hoping to end higher than we went in.”

Western A Divisional

Whitefish def. Dillon 25-11, 25-20, 25-14

Whitefish: Aces 6 (Marlee Bender 3), Kills 34 (Kaiah Moore 9, Bender 9), Assists 21 (Lauren Schulz 18), Blocks 2 (Bender 2), Digs 37 (Jasmine Matern 14)

Corvallis def. Whitefish 25-18, 25-20, 25-15

Whitefish: Aces 2 (Matern 1, Moore 1), Kills 30 (Bender 10, Moore 9, Kennedy Grove 9), Assists 25 (Schulz 23), Blocks 3 (Moore 2), Digs 54 (Matern 17, Moore 11).

Whitefish def. Stevensville 25-15, 16-25, 25-8, 17-25

Whitefish: Assists – 37 (Lauren Schulz 35), Kills – 41 (Marlee Bender 16), Digs – 48 (Jasmine Matern 12, Kaiah Moore 11, Schulz 10), Blocks – 2 (Luci Ridgeway 2, Bender 2), Aces – 5 (Matern 5)

Columbia Falls def. Whitefish 25-14, 25-12, 25-19

Whitefish: Assists – 22 (Lauren Schulz 20), Kills – 23 (Kaiah Moore 9, Marlee Bender 8), Digs – 51 (Jasmine Matern 15, Schulz 10), Blocks 4 (Schulz 3), Aces – 2 (Matern 1, Kennedy Grove 1)

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