The Helena High volleyball team celebrates its playoff win over Missoula Hellgate on Thursday. (MTN Sports photo)

HELENA – Sam Holman, Jamie Pickens and Alexis Danz tallied double-digit kills as Helena High toppled Missoula Hellgate in four sets Thursday to clinch a berth at next weekend’s state tournament.

“We walked into this game, on Monday at practice I said, ‘Really your records don’t matter now. Your ups and downs throughout the season don’t matter. Everybody comes in with a clean slate starting now and you have to win one playoff game to get in a position to go to state,’” said Helena head coach Lindsey Day. “We came in with that mentality and really the road, the journey we’re on today, started there.”

Helena dominated the opening set, a 25-16 win but watched Hellgate battle back to even the match after the second. Day says she was proud of how her team responded.

“We had definitely had ups and downs through the whole match but Hellgate played really well, I thought they stepped up and challenged us and made our defense struggle at times,” Day said. “But I was really proud of how, even after losing the second set, they were able to re-group and come away with the win.”

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With the win, Helena High advances to the Class AA state tournament in Bozeman next weekend. The program captured two championships and two third-place finishes from 2010 to 2013.

Day’s club has shown it has the power to go head-to-head with the best offenses in the state, while athletes like Taryn Holland, Kendra Woodland and Kendra Kloker provide a spark on the defensive end. With a balanced attack, Day believes Helena High can be a challenge for any of the other seven teams in the tournament.

“I really think we can,” she said. “I have a lot of huge weapons and think we can do some good things if we’re playing our best volleyball.”

Helena High will have to wait until Friday night to learn their opponent, but the Lady Bengals will either face No. 2 Bozeman or No. 3 Billings Senior in next week’s first round. The Lady Hawks and Lady Broncs have combined to win the last four state titles.

“We’re ready,” Day said. “Those teams have been there a lot and have experience at state for sure. Their offenses are really strong and it’s going to challenge our defense and make us work to close that block and try to be scrappy.”