Lady Pirates have strong debut at Browning Tip-Off Tournament

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Polson High School volleyball coach Lizzy Cox is still in the process of sculpting her team and finding the right combinations as her team started the season at the Browning Tip-Off Tournament Friday and Saturday.

Cox, who is in her first season as the Lady Pirates’ head volleyball coach after replacing former Pirates’ v-ball coach Patty Luetzen, said this year’s 2018 team is starting to forge their own identity.

“Our first tournament of the season was a lot of fun,” Cox said. “During most of the games I used a different rotation and different combos to try to find the best fit of each girl and where each girl would feel most productive on each possession. I am sure that we will tweak our roster even more as the season progresses.”

The Lady Pirates have solidified one critical area and it is the 2018 Class A tennis champion Shea McGuinness, who will be playing the setter role for Polson.

“We were able to have Shea back to the serving line and we hit seven or eight in a row and that was a good growing moment for the girls,” Cox said. “Our team didn’t give up throughout the whole tournament, which was awesome and is so good when they see that you get to play two or three games of 25. They made it to a third game and they never gave up. Our team went pretty far in both the first and second set. They were not going to give up and I was really proud of them.”

McGuinness should have high expectations entering her senior year.

“I expect a lot out of my setter to control and run the court,” Cox said. “They have to know their position, tell people where to go and what to do, and what play we are going to run. Our setter has to be completely 100-percent confident, know what’s going on and want to get it right. It was really nice as a coach to see Shea play well (in that role).”

The Lady Pirates got a chance to take a look at several teams that are from the Northeast conference as well as they got a look at some of their conference foes such as Whitefish, Columbia Falls and even Ronan.

“We only played teams from the Northeast and it was kind of fun because we started out with Hamilton and took them to the last game,” Cox said. “We won that game and it worked out. We played teams from every other side to 25 and if we split a match, they didn’t play a third one. They just went by point differential and our team ended up finishing fourth.”

Libby, a team picked by many coaches to be a contender for the state title, captured first place followed by Whitefish, Columbia Falls and Polson finished fourth in the Tip-Off Tournament.

During the season, one of Cox’s initial goals for her team is to play a more fast-paced style of offense to off-set the height disadvantage she anticipates her team will face during their conference play.

“I think learning a new system is going great,” Cox said. “Learning a new system of volleyball really helps us understand the game, and learning quick volleyball really helps us to defend against taller teams like Columbia Falls, who have quick middles. All of the conference teams have a quick offense. It is a high-risk, high-reward offense and the timing with this offense is a lot trickier. We made some mistakes in our first tournament but those things will iron themselves out the more we play and practice together.”

The Lady Pirates, who will travel to Frenchtown to play a match at 4:15 p.m. Thursday in Frenchtown High School, are progressing right where Cox wants them to be at this point of the season.

“I think everyone looks good and everyone is excited to play someone besides themselves in the preseason,” Cox said. “You are constantly excited to play someone else and everyone looked really good at the Browning Opening Tip-Off.”

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