STATE VB: Passing game dooms Eureka in 3-set loss to Three Forks

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BOZEMAN — Head coach Charli Chapman didn’t pause to think about her diagnosis of Eureka’s issues in its opening match of the state volleyball tournament.

All the problems, she said, came back to a central one.

“Our passing game was really off,” Chapman said. “Our goal was always to go three-option pass to our setter. I feel like we were limiting her to one option and bringing our hitters off the net, which is not a great way to play high-level volleyball. I really feel like our passing game was our demise today. We couldn’t get it going.”

The passing game limited what Eureka could do offensively, and it showed in a 25-14, 25-11, 25-23 loss to Three Forks in the first round of the Class B state volleyball tournament on Thursday.

The Wolves’ noticeable size advantage didn’t help matters.

Six-foot Morgan Allen — who paced her team in kills (19), blocks (8) and digs (11) — led a trio of Three Forks hitters standing 5-foot-10 or taller to a dominating performance at the net against the Lions, who do not have a player who exceeds 5-9.

The Wolves notched 31 kills to Eureka’s 26 and out-blocked the Lions 12-0.

“Three Forks blocked us very well today,” Chapman said. “Kassi Peterson’s my leading kill swinger, and they shut her down pretty well. We tried to make some adjustments to our tip game, but they blocked super well. Size definitely helps.”

The Wolves ran away with the first two sets before scraping their way to a sweep.

After taking a 10-9 lead early in the third set, Eureka controlled the majority of the game and grew its lead as large as five before a late run snatched the set and match from the Lions.

“We played less hesitant in that third set,” Chapman said. “We were (at) more of our tempo, our game.

“I still don’t feel like we played our level, our caliber of volleyball at any point during that match, but it was good to see that they got a fire in them in that third set. They realize they’re going to have to play with that fire from point one here on out, because at this caliber of volleyball, teams will just eat you up and put you away.”

Eureka faces Shelby at noon today in loser-out play. The two teams have not faced each other this season.

“It’s point for point from here on out,” Chapman said.

“We talked about the level of pressure for tomorrow’s game. It’s going to be way greater than today, because everyone’s fighting to stay alive.”

Three Forks def. Eureka 25-14, 25-11, 25-23

Kills — Eureka 26 (Kassi Peterson 12), Three Forks 31 (Morgan Allen 19). Blocks — Eureka 0, Three Forks (Allen 8). Digs — Eureka 25 (Rylee Morgan 8), Three Forks 43 (Allen 11). Assists — Eureka 25 (Liz Pacella 25), Three Forks 29 (Kyle Olson 29). Aces — Eureka 2 (Erynn Thier 1, Bailey Bishop 1), Three Forks 6 (Heather Wilson 4).

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