It’s state or bust for the Lady Vikings
The Lady Vikings’ coach has guaranteed her team a trip to the state tournament.
Third-year coach Sheryl Kain’s guarantee isn’t nearly as bold as it seems. She said no matter how her team fares at district or divisionals, they are making a trip to Bozeman come Nov. 11, even if it’s just to have a barbecue outside the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse.
The Lady Vikings have advanced to the Western C Divisional Tournament both years of Kain’s tenure, but that simply isn’t good enough for Kain this season.
“I want to go to state, we’re going to state,” Kain said at Charlo’s practice Monday evening. “I want them to have that hunger and just not be happy with districts.”
The Lady Vikings went undefeated in district play in the regular season last year, but lost to rival Hot Springs at the district tournament to finish second. That loss still stings.
“My first goal is to win districts and than do something at divisionals,” Kain said. The Lady Vikings have finished second at districts the past two years and have combined for three wins at divisionals those two years. “I think we’re better than that. Hopefully our conditioning will pay off and I also think we have real good team chemistry this year.”
The Lady Vikings lost a lot of starters to graduation, but compared to most teams in the district they also have a lot of players returning.
Kinley Pope, Dawn Blevins and Jessica Foust all started for the Lady Vikings the past season.
“That’s a good starting point,” Kain said of the returning starters. “We have a good hitter, a good setter and a good passer.’
With the departure of front-row players Jaris Kelley, Alex Esterby and Becky Jo DuMont, a lot of the offensive load will fall on Kinley Pope’s shoulders, who has seen some time in the Lady Vikings’ starting rotation the past two years.
“She (Pope) is probably our best all around player. She can play any position pretty good. That helps a lot,” Kain said.
Blevins, a junior, took over for senior Stephanie Maughan in the setter position to give the Lady Vikings more options on offense. And as a sophomore showed a lot of poise learning the new role.
“She stepped right into it. She may have been a little nervous, but she didn’t show it and that helped,” Kain said, adding that consistency is Blevins’ best asset as a setter and that she also a good server.
Foust is a back-row specialist who throws herself at every ball that comes her way. Foust will anchor the Lady Vikings’ back row this season, but Kain still hasn’t decided at what position.
Deondra Brown saw some playing time for the Lady Vikings the past season and should help Charlo’s push toward the postseason. Kain said Brown can play the back row and though shorter than the prototypical front row player, she is also a good hitter and blocker.
After playing on the varsity team as a freshman, Jazmine Hernandez-Kelley skipped the past season. Hernandez-Kelley gives the Lady Vikings another offensive threat.
Seniors Schaelyn Fell and Royelle Esterby also will play a significant role for the Lady Vikings this season. Fell will spend most her time on the back row and Esterby gives the Lady Vikings another hitter.
Kelsie Blevins will help Foust on the back row and Kain has also been impressed with sophomores Rachel Hoyt and Derika Stipe. With her long arms, Hoyt is an excellent blocker and hitter. Stipe can also block at the net and gives Charlo another option at setter.
The Lady Vikings start the season hosting the Savage Heat Aug. 27 and then travel to Drummond for a tournament Aug. 28.