BRIDGER -- The Bridger volleyball team has finished consecutive seasons with a sour taste in its mouth.
The Scouts have lost in the second championship match of each of the past two Class C state title matches. In 2018, Bridger won the first title match against Belt to force a second match but lost in five sets to the Huskies. Last November the Scouts beat Manhattan Christian in the undefeated semifinal Friday night but lost both championship matches to the Eagles the next day.
Bridger is bringing back three all-state selections in Emily Adkins, Kyra Kroll and Jenna Kallevig and a fourth all-conference pick in Hope Buessing. All seniors, they're focusing on another chance to climb to the top in this pandemic-altered season.
“I think we’re just kind of taking advantage of actually being able to play," Bridger head coach Lena Kallevig said. "It is different. It is different. Every time we go into the gym we’re like, ‘Could this be the last match?’ I think they’re just trying to enjoy every moment. They are different this year. They’re smiling a lot more and enjoying the moments.”
“Coach Lena has actually made that very clear with us. Some of the games, they may not be as exciting as the last one has been, but she has definitely kind of opened my eyes, at least, that our game this Friday, it could be postponed or we could get quarantined in the next few days," said Adkins, a senior hitter. "I think she’s made it clear that we need to make every game like our last and just be grateful we still get our season.”
One big advantage Bridger has over other Class C schools around the state? Two of the best Class B programs in the state – Huntley Project and Joliet – are routinely on the Scouts’ schedule. Bridger even swept Joliet in the first meeting between the two this year.
“It’s just kind of different when we go into those matches, just the level of focus that we bring," coach Kallevig said. "I’d like us to stay focused for every match, but if we can bring it for matches like that then I’m pleased.”
“It’s really good, because it gets us ready for the tournament where we will see more competition," said Kroll, a senior libero. "If we don’t, we won’t be as prepared, because we won’t be able to play our full game as we can against those other teams. It really benefits us because we learn how to shake off mistakes and how to just work together as a team and motivate each other to do better in the next points.”
Bridger has a ton of experience and talent, but it’s the sting of those runner-up finishes that has continued to push the Scouts.
“We’ve been playing together since fifth grade, most of the seniors," Kroll said. "Now that it’s our last year, we know we can do it. We just want to win now more than ever.”
“We have won districts, for example, the last three years. But I think it’s kind of the cherry on top this year. If we do win, it’s like we won all four years, and especially our senior year we won," said Adkins.
Always a tough out come tournament time, expect the Scouts to be playing late in the postseason once again. After sweeping its way to the District 4C title last weekend, Bridger will open the Southern C divisional tournament at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday afternoon against Harlowton-Ryegate in Hobson.