CHURCHILL — In the last three seasons the Manhattan Christian volleyball program has been in a Class C title match. Of those three appearances they’ve won two of them including last season over Plentywood.
This season the team now uses it as a guide to navigating their journey through districts, divisionals and state.
“We’ve been through all the pressure as a team,” junior Katelyn Van Kirk said. “All of us have been in that position so I think we're really prepared in that aspect.”
“You know how to overcome the stress,” senior Ava Bellach added. “You know what the state championship is like, you know how to get through it.”
Last year, the Eagles lost in the state semifinals to Plentywood. At first it was a crushing blow for a team that had gone undefeated up to that point but instead of letting it ruin their season, they rallied in the consolation round to play them again and win the second yet another state championship.
“There was a lot of challenging things in that game and it kind of helped us just to learn like, ‘Oh, maybe we can lose if we don't play to our best,” Van Kirk admitted. “It was really good just having that mental aspect of the game and just being like every point matters.”
This year, the team has only suffered one loss and it was at the hands of Class B’s Choteau who made the state tournament last year. But although the successes of this year’s team mirror their teams of the last three seasons, if you ask Van Kirk or Bellach, the team is meshing the best they ever have.
“We just get along really well and gel as a team way better than we have in the past,” Bellach explained.
“Team chemistry is a lot better this year than it ever has been, and so I'm really looking forward to going to state with this team and competing with this team,” Van Kirk said happily.
One noticeable player missing from Manhattan Christian this season is Katelyn’s older sister Kiersten who is now playing at Boise State University marking the first time Katelyn has ever played on the court without another Van Kirk sister by her side, including her older sister Kellie.
“This is the first year that I've ever played without (Kiersten) in any sport and so it's kind of weird but I call her every night and I tell her how we're doing, and she just always like talks to me about it. It’s really good having that, but it's different for sure.”
Manhattan Christian will continue to play at home with the team hosting both districts and divisionals before they try to make another play for a state title.