2023 Flathead Valley Golf, Volleyball and Flag Football Preview

Bigfork golf champions look to repeat in Class A, western volleyball teams hope to earn tournament berths and flag football teams aim to keep state trophy local

By Micah Drew
Glacier High School flag football practice in Kalispell on August 30, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon


The first sport to start competition each fall is golf, with class AA kicking off the season with the two invitationals already completed. The Glacier boys were the victors of the Great Falls Invite for the second year in a row, led by Sam Engellant, who shot a two-round total of 138 but lost a scorecard playoff to former state champion Kade McDonough of Sentinel. Glacier lost the state title to Capital by 17 strokes last year, but handily beat the Helena team at Great Falls. The Wolfpack also won the Missoula Invitational last week.

Wolfpack senior Chloe Tanner returns after fifth- and sixth-place finishes at the state tournament the last two years, aiming to clinch a podium spot. She finished second in Missoula, leading the team to a third-place finish.

The Whitefish boys won the team title in 2020 and was second in 2021 and third last year. After losing two top-placing seniors, the Bulldogs are seeking new talent on the greens.

Golf is the sport where Bigfork might make the biggest splash in Class A. Siblings Colin and Keni Wade won individual state titles in May (Class B golf plays in the spring) and having a summer of preparation ahead of the fall prep season means both players will be entering at the top of their game. Colin has previously told the Beacon that coming off a summer on the greens, as opposed to a winter on the golf simulator, will elevate his game — so, a Class A title is in the works for both athletes.

Colin Wade of Bigfork High School, Best of Prep athlete, spring 2022 on June 10, 2022. Hunter DÕAntuono and Sarah Mosquera | Flathead Beacon


The all-volleyball tournament action will bring the state’s top teams to Brick Breeden Fieldhouse at Montana State University this fall. 

Glacier High School made it a single year without head coach Christy Harkins guiding the Wolfpack volleyball squad before summoning her back to the court. Harkins retired as an English teacher at the end of the 2021-2022 school year, but returned as the varsity volleyball coach after missing one season. Last season, under Courtney Baker, the Wolfpack went 9-17, finishing third in the Western AA standings but missing the state tournament.

Harkins will be back “excited and energized,” and will have senior leadership from Ella Farrell, Sarah Downs and Haven Speer to bring the Wolfpack back to the game’s upper echelons. 

Across town, the Flathead Bravettes haven’t reached the state podium since 2012, and in 2022, the Bravettes were missed out on the state tournament. All-conference seniors Sienna Sterck and Olive Lyngholm will bring leadership to the team.

In Class A, Columbia Falls will be looking to return to the state tournament after an extended hiatus. The Wildkats are now seven years removed from back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016 and lost a close state title match to Billings Central in 2020. The team returns Maddie Moultray, Emalee Alton and Demye Rensel — three all-conference honorees — for some foundational experience on the court.

Bigfork made the Class B tournament last year and will now try to perform against its new class A rivals. Piper Linson and Ava Davey are the Valkyries’ top returning players.

Flathead High School flag football practice in Kalispell on August 30, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon


In spring 2021, the Montana High School Association announced a pilot program for girls flag football and last year’s inaugural season was a hit with 82 players between three high schools.

Kalispell has been on the forefront of adopting new girls sports in recent years, with both Class AA schools fielding large wrestling teams when the sport was sanctioned in 2021. The schools again led with flag football, with Glacier fielding the largest of the three teams and the crosstown rivals facing off in the first state championship.

 In an exciting match held in Missoula’s Washington-Grizzly Stadium, the Wolfpack forced overtime and beat Flathead 20-19 for the victory. Glacier will return several key players including senior quarterback Kai Johnson, senior receiver Noah Fincher and sophomore receiver Karley Allen. Flathead senior Harlie Roth will return as quarterback along with junior Quinlenn Tennison at receiver, giving both squads talented, experienced leadership. Expect a repeat of last year’s championship final.

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