Christy Harkins recently watched film from the beginning of the volleyball season, closely inspecting this fall’s Glacier team match by match.
What she saw reminded her a little of 2010, when the Wolfpack dominated the Western AA schedule en route to the program’s first conference title and third place finish at the state tournament.
But mostly this year’s squad stood out on its own unlike any other that Harkins has coached in her career.
“I’ve seen some incredible growth,” she said.
With a talented arsenal of hitters, Glacier reached a new landmark this season, sweeping the conference schedule for the first time and achieving the best regular-season record since the program started in 2007.
“We made history, that’s always really cool,” senior co-captain Cassi Hashley said.
“It’s been a great season. I love this team,” senior co-captain Hannah Atlee said. “We have great chemistry and we all love playing together. I think we can go to state and bring home a medal.”
The third-ranked Wolfpack (21-3 overall, 12-0 in conference) earned an automatic bid to this week’s state tournament in Bozeman. The Pack faces Great Falls (14-11, 7-5) at 10 a.m., Thursday, Nov. 14.
Fourth-ranked Flathead is also rolling into state as a bona fide contender yet again. The Bravettes (17-10, 9-3) eliminated Missoula Big Sky 25-16, 25-16, 25-16 in a home playoff match last week and advanced to state for the 11th year in a row. Flathead opens the tournament against Bozeman (14-6, 7-5) at 4 p.m., Nov. 14.
Both local teams are yet again looking up at Billings Senior, the defending state champion and vaunted No. 1 squad. A year ago, the Broncs capped an undefeated 28-0 season by defeating Flathead 25-23, 25-12, 25-9 and claiming their seventh Class AA state title in 11 seasons.
This season the champs have barely skipped a beat, except for one blemish on their 23-1 record. Second-ranked Billings Skyview dealt Senior its first loss in two seasons on Oct. 8, 25-19, 19-25, 25-15, 25-18.
“They definitely are the powerhouse. They just have such an excellent tradition,” Harkins said of Senior.
“But Skyview beat them. And Flathead has really come on in the last few weeks. I think it’s possible for every team that goes into state to win it, especially in a double elimination tournament. We need to put together three days of everybody playing on the same page. But these kids have a good shot at doing that.”
Both Glacier and Flathead boast formidable lineups of aggressive hitters. The Bravettes have tallied the most kills in Montana — 585 — and average roughly 12 per set. The Wolfpack ranks second alongside Skyview with 514, averaging 11.7 kills per set. Glacier notched the most aces — 117 — followed by Flathead, 114. The next closest team, Senior, had 99.
“This is a strong offensive team,” Harkins said. “We’ve had different leaders on different nights. That gives us a lot of diversity.”
Flathead senior Timi Severson led the state in individual kills with 212. Hashley ranked second in the West, fourth in the state, with 128 kills. Teammate Katie Wiley has 124.
Glacier has shown impressive discipline when the time counts, too. On the road against Helena High a few weeks ago, the Wolfpack lost the first two sets, 19-25, 15-25. But from there the girls rallied back to win, 25-23, 25-22, 15-6. A similar turnaround occurred against Capital.
“To turn it around like that, that showed the focus of the girls,” Harkins said. “Those are pivotal matches for us to understand what we can do when we need to.”
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