The all-class state tournament is still more than a week away but the qualifiers are being sorted out this week as divisional tournaments and play-in matches pare down the field.
In Class AA, Glacier High School earned the fourth seed out of Western AA after going 7-7 in conference during the regular season, but the Wolfpack’s year came to an abrupt end at home on Nov. 5 in a four-set loss to Butte. The Bulldogs, who swept Glacier back on Oct. 25, locked up one of eight spots in the Class AA state tournament for the first time since 2006 with the victory.
Flathead (5-12, 4-10 Western AA) finished the regular season seventh and faces a daunting challenge at Helena High at 6 p.m. on Nov. 7 with a tournament spot on the line. The Bengals (16-2, 12-2) dropped only 10 sets in league play all year, six of them coming at the hands of undefeated in-town rival Helena Capital. Helena High swept the Bravettes on Nov. 2 in the final regular season contest for both teams.
The three-day Western A divisional tournament begins play on Nov. 7 in Dillon, with eight teams battling for four state-qualifying spots. Columbia Falls is the No. 1 seed from the Northwest A, followed in order by Polson, Whitefish and Libby. The Bulldogs and Loggers both won play-in games earlier this week to make the field. Corvallis, Butte Central, Dillon and Stevensville round out the field, representing the Southwest A.
The Wildkats have reached the state tournament six of the last seven years, winning the state titles in 2015 and 2016, and placing second in 2014. Whitefish is looking to extend a streak of four straight years in the state tournament while second-seeded Polson is trying to qualify for the field for the first time since 2011.
The Western B tournament will be held in Eureka on Nov. 7 and 8. Thompson Falls earned the top seed out of the District 7B tourney, followed by the host Lions, St. Ingatius and Bigfork. Only the top two finishers at the Western B divisional will advance to state.
The annual all-class state tournament returns to Brick Breeden Fieldhouse on the campus of Montana State University in Bozeman. Play begins on Thursday, Nov. 14 with the championship matches scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 16.