Volleyball Season Arrives at Postseason Crossroads

Flathead Valley teams vying for trips to state championship tournaments

By Dillon Tabish
Glacier players celebrate a point against Flathead during the crosstown volleyball match on Oct. 26, 2017. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

When the Glacier volleyball team is firing on all cylinders, it’s one of the best in Montana.

Last week, the Wolfpack showcased their firepower at the net with a three-set victory over rival Flathead, 25-18, 25-14 and 25-23.

The crosstown matchup marked the end of the regular season and the arrival of the postseason. Hoping to return to the state tournament a year after placing third, Glacier hosts Missoula Big Sky in a playoff game on Oct. 31.

The winner advances to the Class AA state tournament in Bozeman, Nov. 9-11.

Flathead travels to Missoula to play Hellgate on Tuesday, and the winner plays at Helena on Thursday, Nov. 2 at 6 p.m. The winner of that match advances to the state tournament.

Missoula Sentinel and Helena Capital earned automatic trips to state.

Glacier’s win over Flathead built on a successful regular season that has relied on a talented group of hitters. This year’s team has set several offensive records, including hitting efficiency and kills per set.

“We’ve done some great things at the net,” head coach Christy Harkins said. “We’re a very offensive-oriented team.”

Leading the way is Kali Gulick, who had nine of Glacier’s 34 kills against Flathead. Gulick also led in blocks with three of the team’s six. Ashley Montini led in assists with 25 of the team’s 26. Anna Schrade had five of Glacier’s 13 aces.

“We’ve got a little bit of everything,” Harkins said. “Against Flathead, that was really indicative of the team we can be … We played well at the net, passed well and had good defense.”

Flathead’s Madde Boles led in kills with 10 of the Bravettes’ 18 and had three aces. Bailey Nunn had all 17 of the team’s assists, and Sierra Wilhelm had eight of the team’s 25 digs.

The high school volleyball season is reaching an exciting conclusion for teams across Montana.

Columbia Falls, the two-time defending Class A state champ, has shined this season despite losing a bulk of last year’s squad. The Wildkats placed second at last weekend’s Northwest A district tournament in Browning. Undefeated Libby won 23-25, 25-23, 25-20, 15-12 in the championship match.

Columbia Falls is competing at this week’s Western A divisional tournament in Butte and plays Hamilton at noon on Thursday. Corvallis faces Polson at 10 a.m., Whitefish plays Stevensville at 2 p.m., and Libby plays Frenchtown at 4 p.m.

The top three teams from the divisional will advance to the Class A state tournament on Nov. 9-11 in Bozeman.

Columbia Falls head coach Jolandie Brooks said she has enjoyed watching a new team rise to the occasion this season and carve out its own legacy.

“They’re showing up,” Brooks said. “It is awesome to see them competing and putting it all out there. They are really relentless, and you can’t ask for anything more.”

Ryley Kehr, a junior, has shined at middle hitter, and Hannah Schweikert has stepped up as the team’s setter despite only being a freshman. Savvy Ellis and Trista Cowan, both juniors, have also excelled when it matters most. Tallia Sova and Bridget Barta have brought leadership as the team’s two seniors.

“We have this saying, ‘Back to work.’ That’s basically how we start every practice, and that’s our mindset in every set,” Brooks said. “When that’s your mindset, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing.”

In Class B, Bigfork finished second in the conference and is advancing to this week’s divisional tournament in Eureka. The Valkyries play Anaconda at 4 p.m., Thursday. The top two teams from the divisional tournament will advance to the Class B state tournament in Bozeman on Nov. 9-11.

Bigfork has relied on a talented team that includes Abby Ellison, a phenomenal senior with 227 kills this season. Jaime Berg and Brooke Fraley have both shined as well.

“For us it’s all about teamwork,” head coach Schuyler Baird said. “That’s how we will beat the teams that beat us prior, Eureka and Florence.”

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