Columbia Falls’ Wild Ride Through Volleyball State Tournament

The Wildkats reached the championship match for the first time in four year before falling to Billings Central

By Micah Drew
The Columbia Falls Wildkats wear matching face masks during player introductions before the Columbia Falls Wildkats' championship match against the Billings Central Rams at the Class A state tournament at Sidney High School in Sidney on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. Photo by Mike Clark for 406mtsports.com

Round One: The night before the opening game of the Class A volleyball tournament in Sidney, Columbia Falls coach Jolandie Brooks was confident in her team’s abilities.

“We’re looking forward to being able to set foot on the court tomorrow and see what will happen,” Brooks said, adding that once the team beat Havre, they could be warmed up and ready for another match Thursday night.

As Brooks expected, the Wildkats (13-0) downed Havre in three sets, 25-21, 25-20 and 25-11, continuing an undefeated season. Mady Hoerner led the team with 12 digs and 13 kills, while Hannah Schweikert came away with 25 assists, two aces and two blocks.

Round Two: Hardin stunned the Wildkats, taking an upset win in five sets 25-21, 23-25, 20-25, 25-18, 15-10 during a quarterfinal matchup of the state tournament on Thursday evening. The loss broke the Wildkats perfect season record.

Mady Hoerner again let Columbia Falls with 22 kills, 19 digs and two aces. Dillen Hoerner added 12 kills and two aces, Hannah Schweikert had seven kills and 41 assists, and McKenna Rensel added 16 digs for the Wildkats.

Columbia Falls had only lost four sets going into this quarterfinal match.

Round Three: In a loser-out match against Ronan on Friday, Columbia Falls began to rally back, with eyes still focused on making it to the championship match. Mady Hoerner continued to lead her team in kills and digs, and the Wildkats kept their hopes alive with a 25-11, 23-25, 25-15, 25-21 romp over Ronan.

Hours later, the Wildkats faced off against defending state champions Corvallis. It was the Blue Devils’ third match of the day, and it showed as Columbia Falls won in four sets, 25-22, 21-25, 25-16, 25-14 to pass through to the semifinals.

Hannah Schweikert had a big night with 44 assists, eight aces, 12 digs and a block. Mady and Dillen Hoerner both fashioned double-doubles with 26 kills and 22 digs, and 11 kills and 19 digs respectively.

Round Four: A tournament rematch to advance to the championship match featured Hardin across the court. The tables were turned as the Wildkats avenged their only loss of the season, toppling Hardin 3-1 on Saturday morning.

Final Round: It was a rematch of 2016, the last time Columbia Falls was in the state final. The Wildkats won that game, but on Saturday they fell to Billings Central, which won a third title in four years.

In both 2018 and 2019, Columbia Falls suffered a loss to Central and the Wildkats were unable to break that streak this year.

Billings Central left little doubt which team was the best in Class A, sweeping past Columbia Falls in just three sets, 25-23, 25-21, 25-15.

“They’ve got a great team — big at the net and they had a lot of blocks on us and at the end of the day I didn’t think we had enough in the gas tank,” Brooks told 406mtsports.com. “I think it was their speed that was a big challenge for us. They played a faster offense than anyone we have played.”

Rams coach Anita Foster complimented the Wildkats for their play, singling out Mady Hoerner for being a strong hitter.

Hoerner had 13 kills in the final game, and Schweikert had seven kills, 23 assists, 13 digs and three aces.