BOZEMAN — Billings West might have been the expected Class AA state champion this volleyball season.
But that didn't make the celebration any less special Saturday at Brick Breeden Fieldhouse.
"It beats all expectations. It's the best thing ever," senior Sydney Pierce said after the Golden Bears defeated Bozeman 25-14, 25-15, 22-25, 25-11 to clinch the title Saturday at Brick Breeden Fieldhouse.
Pierce led an offensive onslaught by the Bears in the first set, as she and fellow senior Kourtney Grossman consistently found holes in the Bozeman defense. The Hawks had no answer, as they seemingly only scored on West errors — serves into the net or rocketed out of bounds.
"We were just really focused in," Pierce said. "We knew we had to come into this and not take anything lightly, so we just came in very focused, and I think that really benefited us."
West continued to roll through the second set, but Bozeman found some footing in the third. The Hawks worked their way to a 25-22 win in the third set, giving West its first set loss of the state tournament.
"Just knowing that losing sets happen and it's a part of the game," Pierce said, "and we just knew we had to bounce back from it."
"I think just reminding that you still have to win the game," said West senior Addie Allen. "You can't celebrate early, just stay focused. One point at a time. It's just like any other game. It's the state championship, but it's just like any other game."
And the Golden Bears bounced back in a big way, putting together one of their most dominant sets of the tournament.
Grossman hammered home 16 kills in the match, and Pierce hit down 13. Halle Haber added nine for West, which finished with 55 total kills compared to just 25 for the Hawks. The Bears' block stifled Bozeman, as well. Pierce had five, and Grossman, Haber and Brooklyn Pierce each had two.
Morgan Jones had a team-high 10 kills for Bozeman, which was playing for the title after defeating crosstown rival Gallatin 27-25, 25-21, 26-24 in the third-place match Saturday morning.
"Every year we've always been able to kind of say, 'We'll get it next year. Next year's our year.' And this year I don't think we were able to say that, so I think that pushed us a lot more, and we knew we had to get it done this year," Sydney Pierce said.
West placed second in both 2021 and 2022 before running the table this season.
"We have a joke that the West High Special is second place, so we're hoping to put an end to that," Allen said. "No more West High Special."