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CHAMPS! Anaconda remains unbeaten in 2020, takes down Loyola in 6B championship

COVID may have slightly derailed Anaconda in 2020, but to this point the global pandemic is the only defense against the Copperheads.

Senior middle blocker Brianna Puyear sizes up the defense on Saturday. COPPERHEAD COUNTRY/Blake Hempstead

Anaconda swept through the 6B District tournament Saturday, defeating Deer Lodge in the semifinals and rolling through the title match against Loyola 25-13, 25-20, 25-12 to raise their first postseason championship trophy since 2009.

Because of COVID restrictions, the celebrations weren’t the same. Players, coaches and fans weren’t allowed to congregate on the floor or hang around inside the gymnasium. Everyone understands and is completely fine with it – even though the celebration afterwards is as rewarding as the journey getting there.

Megan Reich led the team with five aces in the championship match. COPPERHEAD COUNTRY/Blake Hempstead

“They’re so good, I’m so proud of them,” said head coach Korey Krumm via text after the match.

It was all Anaconda in Game 1, some may point to a coaching error that put Loyola out of rotation to begin the match. It erased an early three-point lead and Anaconda never looked back.

Game 2 was down to the wire, but service errors by the aggressive Copperheads was much to blame. Krumm acknowledged the errors and spoke colorfully to it during a timeout late in the contested game.

Up 20-19, Anaconda lost starting middle blocker Brianna Puyear when she went down awkwardly with what initially looked like a badly turned ankle. Junior Payton Bailey came in cold off the bench and served to a 24-19 lead before a side out gave Loyola a slim chance.

Freshman Maniyah Lunceford hits through the block of Loyola’s Sam Clevenger. COPPERHEAD COUNTRY/Blake Hempstead

In Game 3, it was all Copperheads. Senior outside hitter had six of her match-high 14 kills aided by a serving strategy that put the ball in play to allow the defense to work.

Senior outside hitter Aubrey Tuss was too much for the Loyola front line, leading both teams in kills during the championship match. COPPERHEAD COUNTRY/Blake Hempstead

Anaconda recorded 34 kills led by Tuss, setter Tiora Ferguson recorded a career-high six kills, followed by Mia Sullivan Sanders and Brianna Puyear with five apiece.

Junior libero Malia Harris led the team with 23 digs while Megan Reich added 15 including a team-high five aces — four of which came in Game 1 in one trip to the service line.

Now, Anaconda takes the No. 1-seed out of the 6B and will play the No. 4-seed. Once the bracket becomes available, it will be posted on copperheadcountry.org.

KILLS — Anaconda 34 (Aubrey Tuss 14, Tiora Ferguson 6, Mia Sullivan Sanders 5, Brianna Puyear 5, Maniyah Lunceford 4). ASSISTS — Anaconda 27 (Ferguson 24, Malia Harris 3). DIGS — Anaconda 71 (Harris 23, Megan Reich 15, Aubrey Tuss 13, Cara Demarois 8, Ferguson 5, Puyear 5, Payton Bailey 2). ACES — Anaconda 8 (Reich 5, Tuss, Puyear, Harris). BLOCKS — Anaconda 5 (Sullivan-Sanders 4, Puyear 3, Lunceford 2, Ferguson).