(Editor’s note: This story will be updated)
HELENA — You can now officially book your state tournament hotels, Montana high school volleyball parents. In limited numbers, of course.
The Montana High School Association executive board approved proposals to host three state tournaments — State A, State B and State C — next weekend in Montana.
Sidney has been approved to host the Class A state volleyball tournament, Shelby will welcome Class B netters and Malta will play host to the State C tournament.
Class AA volleyball has elected to use a playoff format for its postseason, which began Tuesday evening across Montana, which Beckman says the other classifications would have also been forced to implement if not for Sidney, Shelby and Malta's approval.
"We had to go out and look to see who would be interested, No. 1, but then, also, who could host with their county health department approval? We had to have that county health department approval," said MHSA executive director Mark Beckman. "We did contact various communities and sites, went through all of that, and this is where we ended up. We're very, very fortunate to have these three sites saying, 'Yes we can,' and their county health saying, 'Yes we can,' while understanding that we're still going to have the format where we're bringing in two teams, moving them out, bringing in two more, moving them out. So we're still doing everything we can to make sure that we keep our kids, fans and officials safe."
Brick Breeden Fieldhouse at Montana State University in Bozeman typically welcomes all four classifications for an all-class state tournaments atmosphere, but due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, no city in Montana was able to host multiple classifications at the same site.
Cities across Montana were encouraged to work with their local city-county health departments to devise plans for hosting the state tournaments, which were scheduled for Nov. 12-14. In October, the MHSA executive board approved an updated spectator policy, which would allow for the following at postseason football, soccer and volleyball events:
- Up to a maximum of six tickets per uniformed volleyball player.
- Up to a maximum of four tickets for each alternate and manager.
- Up to a maximum of two tickets for members of the coaching staff.
- Up to a maximum of two tickets for each cheerleader, up to 12 total cheerleaders.
"We did have one other town reach out and say, 'Yeah, we're interested. We'll put something together,'" Beckman said of the statewide interest in hosting a state tournament. "But for the most part, we reached out to them trying to see if the interest was there, and, of course, the health department approval."
"We've gone through all the check-offs. We like to get larger arenas, those that have multiple floors or larger communities with motel accommodations, those kind of things," Beckman continued. "We also look at centralizing. 'Where's a good location?' These are the three that were willing and able to do it, so that's where we're going. ... We're just very fortunate to have them, that (Sidney, Shelby and Malta) are willing to and able to."
Many district and divisional tournaments across Montana elected to implement playoff-format postseasons, though others have utilized two gymnasiums, either in two nearby towns or in towns that offer two sites.
Sidney will welcome four teams each from the Eastern A and Western A, which are conducting divisionals this week. Hardin and Billings Central are scheduled to meet in the Eastern A championship on Thursday, while Havre and Glendive will compete for third and fourth.
The Western A opens its tournament with play-in matches on Wednesday.
Shelby, which is currently co-hosting the Northern B divisional with Conrad, will also bring in eight teams from across Montana. The Southern B and Western B divisionals will qualify three teams each, while the Northern B advances two to the final weekend.
Four Class C divisionals are in progress across Montana, with each advancing its top two teams to the state tournament in Malta.