An early season match hardly generates much buzz or jubilation. But last week’s crosstown volleyball showdown was hardly an everyday contest, not for Glacier.
With dynamism and efficiency, the Wolfpack swept their rival Flathead, 25-18, 25-23, 25-17, on the Bravettes’ court.
It only added up to one more Western AA conference victory, but seeing the Glacier spikers’ focused performance and triumphant reaction, it was clear that this meant much more than that.
The Wolfpack are ready to step back out of their neighbor’s shadow.
After the first month of the season, Glacier is 11-1 overall, 5-0 in conference, and ranked second in the state behind two-time defending champion Billings Senior. The lone defeat came in match play at the Electric City Invitational in Great Falls, where Glacier squared off against top-ranked Senior and fell 25-12, 25-12. The Wolfpack rebounded the next match and finished third among the field of Class AA teams.
The girls have cruised through the first half of the schedule, sweeping Hellgate and Sentinel, beating fifth-ranked Helena in four sets and rallying from two down to stun Helena Capital.
But arguably most significant was last week’s win against Flathead – its first since 2010. It turned the page on the memories from last season, when the Bravettes swept the Wolfpack in conference action and then bumped Glacier out of the state semifinals, 21-25, 25-23, 22-25, 25-20, 15-9.
That seemed long ago last week.
“It’s just a conference match just like any other competitor. But (Flathead) was a team that we have struggled against (in recent seasons),” Glacier head coach Christy Harkins said, describing the victory as a confidence booster.
“I am not surprised with where these girls are right now,” she added. “Other people might be. But we knew the talent and potential we had coming into this season. It’s great to see the kids playing confidently and at a high level so they can start to reach for their goals.”
The talented club in many ways resembles the 2010 squad, which went 18-5, claimed the conference crown and earned the program’s first state trophy, placing third.
Although there are only three seniors, the lineup features a well-rounded collective that includes Cassi Hashley, a four-year varsity competitor with an all-state pedigree, and Hannah Liss, an all-state junior who leads the state in aces and ranks second in assists.
“All nine of our kids on varsity all play such key roles,” Harkins said. “Everybody’s got something they can contribute.”
Hashley, Liss and senior Hannah Atley are the leaders of the Pack, which encompasses a team of spikers full of multi-sport experience and competitiveness that Harkins credits as foundations of the program.
“That’s important to us here at Glacier. That crossover from what they learn in other sports and that constant competitiveness, it really helps them,” Harkins said.
Kalispell has a rich tradition of strong volleyball teams.
Glacier has advanced to the Class AA state tournament the past three seasons. Last year’s squad earned third place in the West and won its opening round match at the state tournament in Bozeman before losing to Flathead and Helena Capital in consecutive matches. The team finished 19-8.
Flathead has advanced to the Class AA state tournament in 10 consecutive seasons, winning three Western AA conference titles in that time.
Last year’s Bravettes swept their conference opponents for the first time in school history and finished second at state with a 21-6 record.
This year’s squad is missing a few noticeable names like Kwyn Johnson, who is playing at Arizona State University, and all-state setter Emily Russell. But the Bravettes still have Emma Andrews, an all-state senior who leads the state in kills, and senior Timi Severson, who ranks second in kills and third in aces, tied with teammate Jessica Simmons. Simmons also leads the state in assists per set.
Flathead (5-5, 3-2) is in third place in Western AA and has appeared in the coaches’ poll this season but fell out of the top five in the most recent rankings.
“We have great volleyball in this valley. Both schools have good programs,” Harkins said. “Flathead has had great volleyball for a long time. And Glacier’s coming into its own.”
Glacier hosts Flathead in the second and final regular-season crosstown match Oct. 10 at 7 p.m.
The playoffs begin Nov. 5 and the state tournament is Nov. 14-16 in Bozeman.
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