High School SportsHigh School Volleyball


Two years removed from title, Great Falls CMR volleyball again on winning path

CMR Volleyball
Posted at 4:41 PM, Sep 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-14 18:54:58-04

GREAT FALLS — The Great Falls CMR Rustlers have placed in the top three at state in each of the past four volleyball seasons, highlighted by their state title win in 2021.

It comes as no surprise to see that seventh-year head coach Patrick Hiller has his team off to another hot start in this young season. Following a win over the previously undefeated Belgrade Panthers, the Rustlers have improved to 6-2 as they strive to make another deep postseason run.

“Our first goal right now is just to make it to state,” said senior middle bitter Macie Wheeler. “Our main goal is to get more trophies to bring back to CMR.”

The CMR squad is younger than it has been in the past and seems to still be in the process of building up its team chemistry. This year's team features a combination of players that had not shared the floor with one another prior to the 2023 season, but continues to attack its weaknesses head on in practice as and continue to get the results it desires.

“I think we’re going to have to learn to play together a lot more,” said senior setter Hope Madill. “We have a couple of younger girls and a couple of girls that haven’t played at all together so I think that’s one thing and communication…we need to work on our communication quite a bit but we definitely have the talent.”

Hiller says the Rustlers are still in the beginning stages of figuring out who they will be by the end of the season. He also added that even though the Rustlers are already into conference play, they are still trying to figure out their lineups and changing things daily.

“We need to get smarter, we need to raise our volleyball IQ every day. We need to know what shot needs to be hit and not ‘just because,'” he said. ”We need to know why we hit that shot, why do we defend into this zone, who do we rotate into this particular seem on defense on this ball. Not just doing it out of nature but actually learning and understanding why we’re doing those things.”

Following last year's loss at the Eastern AA divisional tournament, Hiller told MTN that the goal or focus was never on divisionals, rather it was on making the state tournament.

Being so early in the current season with a younger group, the goal is still to make a state title run but he now says the focal point is “just getting better.”

“I would say we have the potential to compete for that but the Eastern conference is really good this year and it’s going to take parts coming together for us and also a really good match at the right time,” Hiller said.

Despite not being as experienced has teams in the past, this Rustler squad still believes it can control its own destiny and put itself in a position to be in the running for another title.

“I think we’re confident because we know we can grow and right now we’re at a good place where we are still competing against these good teams and even coming close to winning so I think we just know in our hearts that we’ll get to where we need to be by the end of the season,” said Wheeler.