Manhattan Christian volleyball

Manhattan Christian libero Maddie Liudahl makes a dig Tuesday night.

CHURCHILL — Jill Ayers waited as long as possible.

Manhattan Christian’s longtime coach was confident her players would get themselves out of the jam. But after falling behind late in the third set Tuesday night, she finally conceded and called timeout.

The 60-second break allowed the Eagles to collectively take a deep breath and regroup, and then they scored four of the next five points en route to finishing off a 25-13, 25-22, 26-24 sweep of Manhattan.

“That’s one thing that’s really impressing me this year is that they’ve had to do this several sets. They’ll be down two or three or whatever and I just say, ‘You guys figure it out. You gotta chip away and dig yourself out of this hole,’” Ayers said. “That one set, I think four missed serves, put us in the hole. So they put us in it, they’re getting themselves out.”

Christian (13-0), which has only dropped six sets in non-tournament matches, posted its ninth sweep of the season. Kiersten Van Kirk led the Eagles with 10 kills and three blocks.

“Not real smooth tonight,” Ayers said. “Not horrible, but we made some mistakes that need to be cleaned up before next week. So we played well, but we didn’t play our best tonight.”

It wasn’t Manhattan’s best night either. The Tigers committed seven serve-receive errors in the first set and trailed by as many as 14 points.

“I think that really kind of set the tone for that first one. We just weren’t able to get things going. Weren’t able to get sets where we needed them to so we could run some kind of offense,” Manhattan coach Charli Chapman said. “But I think they answered well in Sets 2 and 3.”

The Tigers (8-6) led nearly the entire second set thanks to well-placed tips and kills by Erika Davis and Oliviah Westervelt. After Davis scored on back-to-back kills to stretch the lead to 21-16, the tide shifted.

Rylie Thompson scored on a kill for the Eagles, and then Van Kirk served up six straight points. The 6-foot-2 sophomore also scored on a pair of back row kills during the run as Christian surged into the lead 23-21.

“When we get in a little skid and nobody can get the job done, we just give the signal and it goes to the back row,” Ayers said. “It’s nice to have that option.”

Manhattan fought back from an early six-point deficit in the third set but couldn’t finish it off after taking a 23-22 lead. Hailey VanDyken and Van Kirk combined for three kills as the Eagles rallied for the win.

The Tigers, who lost their third consecutive match, were led by Westervelt’s 10 kills and two blocks. Adele Didrikson and Davis each finished with six kills.

Despite the loss, Chapman noted the positives that came out of the contest. The second-year coach credited the defense for making plays that hadn’t been executed in the past couple of matches and serving smart as well as aggressively.

“It’s easy for me to just sit here and focus on the negative things, but I think they did a lot of really good things tonight against a really quality team,” Chapman said. “We talked a lot about defending Kiersten and making sure we were aware and we commit block on her, and I think we did a decent job of that tonight.”

Christian hosts Gardiner in a conference match Thursday, while Manhattan wraps up the regular season with a conference match Friday at Boulder.

Colton Pool can be reached at or 406-582-2690. Follow him on Twitter @CPoolReporter.