CHURCHILL – The Manhattan Christian volleyball team is one of the best in Class C, and the Eagles’ rise as a powerhouse can be attributed to one of the best sister duos in the state.
The Van Kirk sisters have quickly become a force in Class C volleyball for Manhattan Christian. Kellie is in her senior season, while younger sister Kiersten is a freshman, and they are excited to have one season to play for the same team.
“She’s like the calm one and I’m definitely more the outgoing one, so we work really well together. We even each other out,” laughed Kiersten.
“It’s a cool experience to play in high school together, because not many people get to do that the way it works out. It’s fun, there’s a little bit of a rivalry. There can be frustrating (times) like, ‘Oh, she made a mistake,’ but it’s fun,” said Kellie.
The sisters were attending school in the Bozeman district but transferred to Manhattan Christian two years ago, and they have fit right in.
“Instantly they have become team leaders and just talent-wise the other girls just follow them naturally, just because of their talent and their work ethic,” said Jill Ayers, Manhattan Christian’s head volleyball coach.
The Van Kirks have also turned heads on the court with their height. Kellie is 6-foot while Kiersten is 6-1 and still growing. That size comes from their father, Kenneth, who might be one of the tallest people in Montana, standing at 7-0.
“Other people will say, ‘Your dad is so tall, I’ve never seen someone so tall,’ but I don’t know. I think for me it’s pretty much just normal,” Kellie smiled.
Height is no substitution for talent in volleyball. Kellie and Kiersten travel all summer long with the Big Sky Volleyball Club playing in tournaments and working to get better.
All those hours have led to Kellie committing to the University of Montana while Kiersten is already getting looked at by Pac-12 schools as a ninth grader. Her big sister has some tips on the recruiting trail.
“I guess I would say, ‘Stay open,’ would be my advice, because for me I never really thought of U of M as an option until a couple months ago this spring … so keep your options open,” said Kellie.
With the dominant Van Kirk sisters, the Eagles handed Gardiner its first loss of the season on Tuesday, defeating the Lady Bruins 3-1. Manhattan Christian is proving to be a Class C powerhouse and with playoffs nearing, the Van Kirks are ready to show that.
“I think we are doing super well, our team has been working super well together and we’ve just had an amazing season so far,” said Kiersten.
“Obviously winning state and going to state,” said Kellie. “I think our team as a whole can go super far this year. Just going to tournaments and playing the best we can and seeing what happens.”