MISSOULA — Basketball is winding down, and seniors around the area are closing their high school careers before beginning new chapters at the college level.
That goes for Missoula Sentinel's Olivia Huntsinger, a post and wing for the Spartans, who is taking her talents to NCAA Division II Central Washington next season.
"Especially when I got recruited by such a high level team in the conference that's top (five) in the (Great Northwest Athletic) conference the last five years," Huntsinger said. "It's cool to see that I'm going to be able to be a part of that program."
Division II is a high level of competition not often traveled by Montana athletes, let alone out of state.
But Huntsinger was discovered by a number of teams at the D-2 level at a summer tournament in California, and she landed on Central Washington, a program that has begun to blossom nationally, and also is in the same conference as Montana State Billings. The Wildcats went 24-8 in 2021-22, their best mark since joining Division II, and won the GNAC tournament for the first time in program history.
This year, they're 20-7 and 12-6 in league play and finished third in the regular season standings.
"I took a visit out there right after my tournament and I loved it," Huntsinger said. "They're getting all new facilities, and they're pretty team-oriented and they won the championship last year for the GNAC, and it was a really good environment, and I liked where their program's going and their head coach (Randi Richardson-Thornley) is pretty new which is nice because she's changed the program within the last five years."
Women’s Basketball Inks Huntsinger https://t.co/B1ymWhOgrq
— CWU Athletics (@CWUAthletics) November 16, 2022
Huntsinger signed back in the fall to make it official, the result of a career where she played varsity right away for the Spartans as a freshman, and has started since she was a sophomore.
But she had a former teammate show her what it takes to get to that next level.
"It was cool coming in because watching (current Montana State forward) Lexi Deden, a D1 prospect play, I always had the dreams of playing college like her and it was nice to see her in practice and how hard she worked and I think it's been fulfilled the last three years," Huntsinger said.
And for Huntsinger, to accomplish that goal, was special.
"Honestly great. It's so relieving and it's really nice to see all of the work that I put into it pay off and I think it's going to be another good four years," she said.
But before she finishes her high school career, the task at hand now is the Western AA divisional in Kalispell this week, as Huntsinger and the Spartans (8-10, 5-9) pursue qualification for the State AA tournament in Butte next weekend. Huntsinger is one of five seniors for the Spartans this year alongside multi-sport standouts CC Size, Haley Wolsky, Kassidy Kirgan and Lilly Allen.
They take on No. 3 Helena Capital on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. to begin the tournament.
"Honestly awesome," Huntsinger said about the season. "We have five great seniors, and we've played together since we were in sixth grade, and our connections really well, and then we've got two juniors (Emily McElmurry and Monroe Mastro) and a sophomore (Kaitlyn Hammett) that fit in really good.
"Everyone is 0-0 so it's going to be fun to see where everything plays out."