BOZEMAN — Eureka didn’t run out of fight.
It ran out of time.
The Lions charged back from a seven-point deficit to make things interesting in the decisive fifth set against Shelby but came up short in a tightly contested 21-25, 25-22, 25-22, 22-25, 15-13 defeat that ended their season in the Class B state volleyball tournament at Brick Breeden Fieldhouse on Friday.
“I have nothing but pride for the season these girls have had and how far they got,” Eureka coach Charli Chapman said. “They’ve really left a mark on Lady Lions volleyball and really set a culture. This isn’t going to be the exception to the rule, showing up at state. It needs to become the norm. I feel like they’ve started that tradition. Not how we wanted it to end, of course, but I’m very proud of their effort. They battled every set.”
Eureka came out of the gate swinging — literally — as the front line, paced by Kassi Peterson and Sienna Utter, led the way to a first-set victory. Peterson finished with a match-high 18 kills, while Utter was also in double digits with 10.
“We’re a very strong hitting team,” Chapman said. “We have a very versatile hitting lineup. We’re not one-dimensional. We have a plethora of hitters, and we played that game in Game 1.”
Shelby managed to knock Eureka out of its rhythm in the second and third sets, which were decided by a combined six points.
“Shelby played a lot of roll-shot, ticky-tack, short-game stuff, and we started finding ourselves playing that kind of game,” Chapman said. “It caught up with us. It ended up being a point-for-point battle. We went away from our swinging game, and it got us in the end.”
The Lions got back to their game in the fourth set, responding with a win in another tight game to force a fifth and final one.
It looked as if the Coyotes would roll to an easy win in the deciding set, but Eureka mounted a fierce comeback after falling behind 11-4.
The Lions clawed back to within a point, but a cross-court kill ended their hopes of advancing in the school’s first appearance at the state tournament in 11 years.
“(They) have no idea about what the big show’s all about here (at state) and the energy and all of that,” Chapman said of her team. “I think they were able to show that even though none of these girls are able to play club (year-round) because of where we live … I just really feel like they showed their grit, their determination and their teamwork.”
Shelby def. Eureka
21-25, 25-22, 25-22, 22-25, 15-13
Kills — Eureka 46 (Kassi Peterson 18), Shelby 39 (Bailey Johnson 10). Blocks — Eureka 11 (Bailey Bishop 4, Peterson 4), Shelby 14 (Lexi Robison 7). Digs — Eureka 42 (Rylee Morgan 11), Shelby 98 (Brittany Brusven 21). Assists — Eureka 43 (Liz Pacella 43), Shelby 34 (Brook Luly 17). Aces — Eureka 9 (Peterson 3), Shelby 9 (Kendall Anderson 2, Luly 2, Sydnee Salveson 2).