Glacier’s Powerful Pack

With renewed motivation, the Wolfpack volleyball team is the best in the West

By Dillon Tabish

There’s a collection of different colored volleyballs in the team room at Glacier High School, one for each Western AA opponent. After each victory the Wolfpack girls write the scores from the match on the specific opposing team’s ball, “so we can see a history of tradition,” says head coach Christy Harkins.

On this pace, the program will need a fresh set of volleyballs pretty soon.

Glacier’s experienced, athletic spikers are cruising through the regular season toppling opponents with dominating efficiency once again. At home on Sept. 23, the No. 2-ranked team in Class AA made quick work of their crosstown rival, fifth-ranked Flathead, in three sets, winning 25-13, 25-16, 25-15. The Wolfpack had 40 kills to Flathead’s 18, and eight aces, led by Kayla Russell’s four. Hannah Liss had 31 of Glacier’s 32 assists, and Hailee Bennett added 13 of her team’s 42 digs.

“Good day for the Wolfpack,” Harkins said afterward, adding, “Any crosstown win is a great win.”

Last week’s performance, which culminated in just under an hour, highlighted the renewed vigor of Glacier’s volleyball team this fall. At 11-1 overall, 5-0 in conference, the Pack is atop the Western AA standings and has the second best overall record in Montana.

Only top-ranked Billings Senior stands taller, with a perfect 15-0 record, two consecutive state championships and a dynastic program that casts a large shadow over the state. The Broncs went 27-1 last season and captured their seventh championship in 10 years after defeating Billings Skyview 25-21, 25-16, 25-18 in the AA title match.

But in the West, Glacier has emerged as the team to beat.

Harkins has a powerful veteran squad led by a group of all-state seniors: hitter Katie Wiley, setter Hannah Liss, hitter Tessa Krueger and libero Kayla Russell. There are nine girls on the roster who are 5-foot-11 or taller, including three talented 6-1 players — Wiley, Nikki Krueger and Cameron Crosby.

“They have a lot of experience. They have a lot of focus,” Harkins said. “A lot of them returning didn’t do as well last year as they wanted to, so there’s motivation to have a good season.”

Last season the girls captured the Western AA crown after going 12-0 in conference and advancing to the state tournament for the fourth consecutive season. They rolled in with a 21-3 record, but Billings Skyview halted Glacier’s postseason run in the quarterfinal round, winning 25-22, 25-17, 25-17. The Wolfpack tried rallying through the consolation bracket but fell short against Helena, 24-26, 26-24, 25-18, 25-17.

A couple standouts graduated from last season’s conference champion squad, including all-state hitter Cassi Hashley, but Harkins has seen several girls step up as solid replacements.

“I think we’re really well rounded. Every time we rotate somebody up to the front row, it’s another hitter coming in with a great attack and the back row kids really step up,” she said. “We’re just really well-rounded right now.”

Liss is the top ranked server in the West, with eight aces on her resume so far. She’s also the leading setter-assist leader. Brielle Bumgarner, a sophomore, has emerged as a top player and ranks first in attack efficiency and second in blocks. Hailee Bennett, a junior, ranks first in digs.

“They’ve worked so hard for the past few years, conditioning and working in the offseason,” Harkins said. “When I saw them for the first time at the beginning of the season, I thought, ‘Those are not the same kids.’ They’re just stronger. Physically, they’re just a lot stronger right now from a year ago. They have to have confidence about that.”

Flathead (6-5, 3-2) can boast its own talented lineup that ranks in the top five in Montana. Head coach Leon Wilcox has confidence that this latest Bravettes squad can bounce back after the Glacier loss and continue improving.

“We just need to shake it off and regroup at practice and get ready for another match because we have a lot of season left,” he said. “I think they have a lot of potential. We’re ranked fifth in the state. I’ve seen all the teams and I don’t see any reason why if we really put it together we can’t be top three.”

Last season the Bravettes went 16-10 and qualified for the state tournament for the 11th consecutive season. Flathead won its opening match over Bozeman but fell to Billings Senior in the quarterfinals, 25-22, 14-25, 25-14, 25-17. Helena eliminated the Bravettes the next day in the consolation bracket, 25-18, 25-22, 19-25, 23-25, 15-10.

This season’s squad has a few young leaders, including sophomore Tiana Johnson, junior Lizzie Sherwood and junior Jourdan Schultz. Johnson ranks third in the West in blocks, Sherwood is fourth in digs and serves and Schultz is second in passer-serve receives. Jessica Simmons, a senior, is ranked fourth in setter assists.

Glacier and Flathead will square off for the second crosstown match of the season at Flathead on Oct. 16.

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