BOZEMAN — The first day of the Class AA state volleyball tournament was dominated by the Eastern AA.
Two Eastern teams — Billings West and Gallatin — will play for a berth in the state championship match Friday at 6 p.m. The other six teams will battle it out to be the third team to advance to Saturday.
Here’s the day two recap:
Kalispell Glacier 3, Missoula Sentinel 1 (loser out)
The Class AA state volleyball tournament couldn’t have started much worse for the Glacier. On Thursday, the Wolfpack were swept by Bozeman and to make matters worse on Friday, they fell behind Missoula Sentinel after dropping the first set 25-18.
However, the Wolfpack finally flipped the switch and evened things up with a 25-19 win, before taking the third 25-23 and the fourth 25-20 to come away with the 3-1 win.
Natalie Herne led the way for the Wolfpack with 11 kills. Leila Major also came up clutch with the winning points in the fourth and fifth sets. She also finished with 10 kills and two blocks. Hannah Speer managed 38 assists. Ava Kellenberg paced Sentinel with 15 kills. Peyton Size added 25 assists and Bailey Casagrande tacked on 34 digs.
“I’m super proud,” Glacier head coach Christy Harkins said. “Especially when you come out and lose the first set. You drop four straight sets at state and you can get stuck in your mind.”
What turned things around? Harkins said simply that her team wasn’t ready to go home. She also credited an aggressiveness at the service line.
“It was definitely that (the team didn’t want to go home),” she said. “We worked on being more aggressive serving and also just playing a conference opponent again. If someone from our conference had to go home, we didn’t want it to be us.”
For now, it won’t be. Glacier will advance to the next round of loser-out action.
Billings Skyview 3, Kalispell Glacier 0 (loser out)
The dominance of the Eastern AA continued at the second day of the Class AA state volleyball tournament as the fifth match between the two divisions also went the way of the East following a 3-0 sweep for Skyview over Kalispell Glacier by the scores of 25-23, 25-21 and 25-21.
Abby Little was a driving force for the Falcons with 10 kills and 3.5 blocks. Mylie Reiter added nine kills, while Taryn Salveson pitched in with three aces and 30 assists. Haven Speer led Glacier in kills with eight. She also had 26 assists and six digs in a season-ending loss for Glacier.
For Skyview, the winner of Bozeman and Helena awaits at 8 p.m. The winner clinches a trophy and will also advance to Saturday with hopes for a state title still alive.
“The girls knew that they had to come out and play a great team,” Skyview head coach Stormy Siemion said. “You can’t just mess around and think you’re going to win something.”
More than anything, the Falcons believe they can play their way to Saturday.
“I just told them, this is our time,” Siemion said. “We just have to leave it all out on the floor. It’s either you go or you don’t. This is the end of the road for everyone at some point and we want to last a little bit longer this weekend.”
Helena 3, Capital 0 (loser out)
Crosstown matches are always more intense, but that’s especially true at the state tournament, when the loser is going home.
That’s the situation the Helena Bengals and Capital Bruins found themselves in on Friday at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse. For the second straight day, Helena built a 2-0 lead and this time, the Bengals finished it, sweeping their crosstown rivals 25-17, 25-23 and 25-18.
Birdie Heuiser had a big outing for the Bengals. The junior led the way with 14 kills and three blocks. Makenzie Jackson, a future Montana State Bobcat volleyball player, also had 12 kills and two blocks in addition to 10 digs. Malena One-spot Danforth also contributed with 28 assists in the win for the Bengals.
“I just got done telling our players how proud I am of them for their efforts in this match,” HHS head coach Lindsey Day said. “Coming off a tough five-set match last night, I like how they responded. It’s quick turnaround and we know when we step on the court at state, anything can happen.”
It’s the second straight year that Helena has notched a win at the Class AA state tournament and the fourth time in the past five seasons. Helena finished as the runner-up in 2019, which they did after losing their first match.
Do the Bengals have another run like that in them? Day said all they can do is take it one match at a time.
“It’s going to come down to consistency,” she said. “We know it’s a game of ups and downs. We have to ride those, hang in there during those lows and make our runs outlast their runs. We are excited for that match and we’re just taking it one at a time.”
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