Tickets Punched and Tournament Bound

By Beacon Staff

Four teams are representing the Flathead region at the all-class state volleyball tournament, held on Nov. 11-13 at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse in Bozeman.

Polson won the Northwestern A divisional volleyball tournament over the weekend to earn a top seed at the Class A tourney. The Pirates face Laurel, the No. 2 seed out of the east. Northwestern A runner-up Whitefish matches up against Eastern No. 1 Billings Central.

In Class AA, Glacier and Flathead both made the tournament, on opposite sides of the seeding spectrum. Flathead snuck in with a playoff victory over Helena Capital on Nov. 4. With the win, the Bravettes nabbed Western AA’s No. 4 seed and will play Eastern No. 1 Billings West on Thursday.

Glacier earned the top seed in Western AA after finishing the regular season 18-5 overall and 10-2 in the conference. The Wolfpack edged out Helena High and Missoula Sentinel, who were both 9-3 in league matches. Glacier opens up the state tourney against Eastern No. 4 Billings Skyview.

Whitefish’s Abby Strellnauer tips the ball through the hands of Ronan’s Tuesday Salmon, left, and Tailyr Irvine during their first meeting at the divisional tournament in Columbia Falls.

Polson is 15-1 overall, including a perfect 8-0 in regular season conference matches. The Pirates rank at the top of most major statistical categories in Northwestern A. They are No. 1 in assists per set (9.54), kills per set (12.35), blocks per set (2.0) and digs per set (15.04).

The Pirates have talent across the board. During the regular season, senior Kayla Duford averaged a league-best 9.1 assists per set. The next closest was 5.47. Senior Breanne Kelley led the conference in kills per set at 4.23. Teammate Sallie Sams was right behind her at 3.5.

Polson and Laurel square off at 2 p.m. on Thursday.

Whitefish heads into the state tournament with a 10-6 (6-2) record. The Bulldogs rank second in the conference behind Polson in assists per set (7.32), kills per set (8.27) and blocks per set (1.76). They are third in digs at 14.91 per set.

The Bulldogs’ game against Billings Central is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Thursday.

Flathead will have its hands full with Billings West in the opening round of the Class AA state tournament. West is the defending state champion and finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in the state, just ahead of Glacier. The Golden Bears are 24-4 (12-0) this season.

Breanne Kelley, one of Polson’s big hitters, pulls back to spike the ball for a point against Columbia Falls during the first day of the Northwestern A divisional volleyball tournament in Columbia Falls.

At 15-9 overall and 6-6 in the conference, Flathead is a formidable No. 4 seed. The Bravettes are among the state leaders in kills, averaging 11.09 per set. They have a strong frontline led by Hannah Sackett and Danika Johnson. Sackett and Johnson both rank in the top 10 attacking efficiency, while Sackett is also No. 4 in kills per set.

The Bravettes faced West in last year’s opening round as well, losing in straight sets before losing again to Missoula Hellgate in a loser-out match. They play at 10 a.m. on Thursday.

A year after failing to reach the state tournament, Glacier enters this year’s finale as one of the favorites. This Wolfpack roster is deep and loaded with talent at every position.

On the frontline, senior Rachel Cutler, junior Lexy Boschee, sophomore Tiffany Marks, freshman Cassidy Hashley and senior Kendra Bouley have all made significant contributions this season. Senior setter Paige Latimer ranks third in the state in both aces per set (0.6) and assists per set (9.2). Senior libero Cami Mathison ranks in the top 10 in digs.

As a team, Glacier ranks among the state leaders in aces, assists, kills and digs. The Wolfpack, who had a bye to the state tournament and didn’t have a play-in match, take on Billings Skyview at 2 p.m. on Thursday.

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