BOZEMAN — When Hardin's Carmen Pallone stepped up to serve the final point in the Bulldogs' undefeated semifinal match with Billings Central at the Class A state volleyball tournament Friday, the senior had only one thought.
"The only thing I could think in my head was 'over and in.' That’s the biggest thing we talk about when we talk about serving, is just consistency," said Pallone, who scored the final two points — including the match-clinching ace — in Hardin's 25-22, 25-18, 25-15 win over the Rams at Brick Breeden Fieldhouse.
That focus on the fundamentals has Pallone and the Bulldogs on the cusp of winning Hardin's first state volleyball title since 2002. Hardin will play in the championship match at noon Saturday.
The Bulldogs had little trouble handling Eastern A rival Billings Central Friday. The Rams battled in the first set, but Hardin gained control and maintained the advantage throughout the match en route to their sixth win over the Rams this season.
"All season we’ve known as we were building momentum as we were beating teams that we haven’t usually beat, we knew that we were kind of gonna be at the top," Pallone said of Hardin's status as the tournament favorite. "Nobody likes the person at the top. We’ve experienced it before, so just coming in, we just knew we were going to come in and do our best and not worry about what everyone else was doing, and I feel like that’s what we’ve done so far."
Standout junior middle MaKenna Torske had another big match for the Bulldogs, racking up 12 kills, five blocks and 13 digs, as the Hardin defense kept the Central attack at bay all match. Taiya Guptill added two blocks, 14 digs and 35 assists. Macy Uffelman had 10 kills, and Aubrey Nedens had nine.
Billings Central was led by Kamryn Reinker with 13 kills and Ryen Hadley with 10. The Rams will play in the third-place match against Hamilton at 10 a.m. Saturday. If they win that one, they'll get another shot at Hardin in the championship match.
"We’re focusing on ourselves and what we’re gonna do and not what the other team’s gonna do," Pallone said. "As long as we play our game, make every game our game, I feel like that’s gonna be good for us."
"As a team, like our core six, this is our third year of coming here and our first time being able to enter that championship match," she added. "We’re so excited. We’re ready for this."
For updated scores and pairings, click here.
Polson def. Lockwood 25-15, 25-22, 25-19
Glendive def. Whitefish 25-23, 21-25, 25-17, 26-24
Frenchtown def. Polson 25-18, 25-22, 13-25, 23-25, 15-6
Hamilton def. Glendive 25-22, 25-17, 25-17
Hamilton def. Frenchtown 25-15, 25-20, 25-11 (fourth-place match)