On Thursday afternoon four state volleyball tournaments will tip off inside Brick Breeden Fieldhouse in Bozeman. Billings West gets its state tournament started at noon, and with a roster loaded with sophomores, they haven’t experienced anything quite like the atmosphere they will this weekend.
“My hope is that they feed off this energy and look to our older girls that have been in that environment before and look to their leadership for that," West head coach Monica Grimsrud said. "It is a whole different game when you get in there and just everything going on and making sure you stay focused on what you’re there to do.”
“She’s kind of just shared to us to just focus in on our court. Obviously, there’s three other courts and a lot of whistles going on," West sophomore Sydney Pierce said. "We’ve just been focusing on playing through the whistle until we know the play is over with, because it might not be our whistle, and just making sure we’re focusing on our game and what’s happening on our court.”
As talented as that sophomore class is, it’s missing one of its biggest pieces. Kourtney Grossman went down with a torn ACL in September, and while the Golden Bears have had to fill that void, it’s also given them added motivation.
“It’s the toughest loss ever, but we went through summer tournaments without her so that was kind of helpful. We kind of knew how to play without her even though we started with her. She’s definitely our motivation right now and we’re definitely playing for her. It was a hard loss, but right now it’s all for her," said Pierce.
“It’s really hard to play without her, just because she’s kind of my buddy on the court. But I think that our team is doing a good job playing for her and knowing that we’re playing our best because we want to do it for her," said senior Kaitlin Grossman.
More fuel to the fire came in the Eastern AA title game when Great Falls CMR beat West for the third time this season. The Bears are hoping they’ve learned enough from those three meetings to come out on top should they play again this weekend.
“There’s more things on our side to take care of. Just making sure we’re focusing on what we need to do. Making sure we’re eliminating our errors and keeping track of certain hitters on their team and keeping them at bay," Grimsrud said.
“I think we’re improving. We’re working on what we needed to from our last game, so I think this weekend is going to be maybe a different outcome," Pierce said.
West will face Kalispell Glacier in the opening round at noon as the Bears search for their first State AA volleyball title since 2009.