GREAT FALLS — Great Falls CMR looked every bit the part of an undefeated No. 1 seed in a 3-0 sweep over Helena High in the Class AA volleyball state semifinal round on Tuesday.
The Rustlers won decisively 25-15, 25-13, 25-22 over the Bengals to punch a ticket to Saturday’s state championship matchup and exorcised some demons in the process.
A year ago, CMR was the No. 1 seed in East but fell to Helena High in the third-place match to see its season come to a disappointing end.
This year, the Rustlers left no doubt.
“We definitely wanted to take them down, it was like a replay of last year,” said senior middle blocker Madison Mohler. “We wanted to make it to the championship this year, and we pulled through.”
The Rustlers never trailed through the first two sets, scoring the first six points in the first and the first four points in the second. CMR had an answer for every mini-run the Bengals made to take a commanding 2-0 lead.
Helena, facing elimination, woke up in the third set. The Bengals played with urgency and kept a two-point cushion until late in the set. The Bengals led 20-18 when the Rustlers scored five straight to take a 23-20 lead.
The teams then traded points, with Tennison Hiller’s tap over the net lifting the Rustlers to a win and a ticket to the state title match against two-time defending champ Helena Capital.
“It’s so great because our team this year has just worked so hard, and finally getting a chance to play in the game we wanted to play in last year just means so much to us,” said senior defensive specialist Kendal Blades. “And it’s kind of like redemption for us because we didn’t make it there last year.”
Helena Capital has won 70 straight matches and is the back-to-back State AA champion, while CMR is back in the title game for the first time since 2000.
Saturday’s match in Helena begins at 2 p.m.