With all of Northwest Montana’s football teams knocked out of the playoffs, the region’s state championship hopes rest on the shoulders of three volleyball teams: Flathead in Class AA, and Libby and Polson in Class A.
Libby won its third straight Northwestern A divisional title to advance to the Class A state volleyball tournament as the league’s top seed. Polson, the divisional runner-up, has a No. 2 seed at state. Flathead defeated Helena Capital last week in a play-in match to earn the western conference’s fourth seed at the Class AA state tourney.
Both the Class AA and A tourneys, as well as Class B and C, start Thursday at Montana State University in Bozeman. The tournament runs through Saturday.
Flathead’s first-round match is against Eastern No. 1 Billings West on Thursday at 2 p.m. In the Class A tourney, Libby plays Southwestern No. 2 Stevensville at 4 p.m. on Thursday. Polson plays Southwestern No. 1 Anaconda at 10 a.m. on Thursday.
Polson finished the regular season undefeated at 13-0 (8-0) and entered the divisional tournament as the favorite to win. But Libby proved why it’s the defending champion, cruising past Whitefish and Polson to reach the title game. In the championship, Polson beat Libby, but since the Pirates had already lost to the Loggers, they had to win again.
Libby wasn’t about to lose twice in the same day. The Loggers won the decisive title match over Polson 26-24, 10-25, 25-22, 26-24. The victory ensured the Loggers would once again have a No. 1 seed at the Class A state tournament. Polson heads into state with a 15-2 record. Libby is 11-5.
During the regular season, Polson led the conference in nearly every major statistical category, including assists, kills, aces, blocks and digs. Two seniors, Nicole Davey and Staci Benson, and two juniors, Breanne Kelley and Kayla Duford, led the attack. Duford led the conference in assists, Davey finished second in kills, Kelley was first in blocks and Benson was tops in the conference in digs.
Libby is led by all-state senior hitter Jackie Mee, who is also a star in basketball, golf and tennis. Mee led the conference in kills with 184, nearly 4.5 per game. The next closest was Davey at 3.35 per game. With Mee anchoring the front line, the Loggers finished second in kills, assists and aces. Polson finished first in each of those categories.
At the state tournament last year, Libby defeated Belgrade and Billings Central to advance to the semifinals before losing to eventual champion Lewistown. The Loggers then lost to Miles City to finish third. Miles City went on to lose to Lewistown in the title match.
In Class AA, Flathead earned a berth to the state tourney by defeating Helena Capital in four sets in a play-in match. Unlike Class A, there are no divisional tournaments in Class AA. Instead, there are single play-in games in which teams are pitted against each other based on their seeds. The winner moves on; the loser stays home.
Flathead finished the regular season in fourth place in Western AA. As a result, the Bravettes hosted No. 5 Helena Capital in the play-in match. The Bravettes won 18-25, 25-22, 26-24, 25-21. Glacier, the sixth seed, lost its playoff match to Missoula Sentinel in four sets.
The Bravettes are led by sophomore Hannah Sackett and junior Danika Johnson, who are both among the state leaders in kills. Johnson is also a state leader in blocks, while Sackett is near the top in aces. Sophomore Alison Lunde finished the regular season second in Class AA in assists and senior Jaimee Zorn is in the top 10 in digs.
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