MISSOULA — High school sports across Montana are now well into their fall seasons.
On the volleyball court, the Missoula Sentinel Spartans boast the best record in the Western AA, and this senior-laden Spartan team has plenty of experience together, experience that is paying dividends in the gym.
The Spartans improved to 7-2 overall and 3-0 in Western AA play with a win over crosstown rival Missoula Hellgate on Tuesday evening. It's a confident bunch for Sentinel this year which has helped translate into wins.
"Our confidence has been up, our practices have been pretty intense," senior outside hitter Quincy Frohlich said. "We’ve been keeping a very focused mindset. Our starters from last year are still keeping a very focused and determined attitude and I think that so far we’ve been getting a lot better doing what we need to do in order to get it done."
The Spartans boast seven total seniors on this year's team and lost just one full-time starter from a season ago when they made the state tournament but bowed out in the quarterfinal round. Sentinel's seniors include Frohlich, Raia Chase, Jayden Johnston, Hannah Hart, Paige Sawyer, Kodi Fraser and Madison Handley.
That experience together is a key component as Sentinel gelled right away and took off once fall practices began.
"We all played club together this past season too," Johnston, a defensive specialist, said. "I think it kind of fell into another season just playing with each other again and we’ve all been playing since we were in middle school so I think that we definitely have a team aspect that some teams may be lacking just because they haven’t been playing together long."
Going forward, it's about keeping that confidence but not overlooking anyone as the Spartans aim to return to the Class AA mountaintop like they did when Sentinel went back-to-back in 2016 and 2017.
"We don’t want to get too cocky," Sawyer, a setter, said. "We want to stay confident but we don’t want to let that get to our heads because we always want to play to our potential and there’s always an opportunity for us to get better and that’s just what we want to focus on like communication, serve-receive, executing a play off of an out-of-system ball. Those are skill and fundamental things but biggest is just staying confident and having the will to win."