BILLINGS – This time around it’ll be easier.
“Last year, I think it was just a stressful situation for everyone,” recalled Billings West head coach Monica Grimsrud. “The girls handled it really well, but …”
Grimsrud was thrust into head-coaching duties in the final week of the season last year and did as well as could be expected, leading West to its first state volleyball tournament win since 2012. So it was no surprise when she earned the full-time job last offseason.
“Her being younger has actually helped us,” said outside hitter Madeline Dawson. “She has a great relationship with all the girls – all of the coaching staff does. I think she understands us. She realizes how to convey her points clearly.”
The turn-around was quick. West went from after-thought to Eastern AA champion with a strong late-season push that was no fluke.
“We’ve had some injuries this season, so this last part of our season is when we had our whole team playing the right positions,” said West libero Kinzee Koch.
“The thing I love is they haven’t even peaked yet,” said Grimsrud. “There’s been little glimpses of what they can do throughout the season, but I’m really hoping the next couple practices, we’re going to really push it all together and we’re going to peak in the next week.”
The Bears enter state as a No. 1 seed for the first time since 2010 when they made it all the way to the championship, only to lose to Helena High — and star senior Monica Grimsrud.
“Oh yeah, we know all about it,” said Dawson. “I think if we ever get a shot at Helena when we’re there, there’s going to be some revenge there for her.”
Well, guess what? If West beats Missoula Hellgate in Thursday’s opener, the Bears’ quarterfinal draw would be the winner of the first-round game between Billings Senior and Helena.
“I mean, obviously, the West-Senior crosstown rivalry is huge,” Grimsrud said. “But for me, obviously personally, Helena is one that’s down deep there, and I really want to win that game.”
“I definitely think she’ll want to beat Helena High, that’s a pretty big game,” agreed Koch. “Especially them being the good team that they are, I think it would be a great opportunity to play them.”
“We’re all so excited, I think for us seniors, especially,” said Dawson. “Me and Kinzee, this is our last chance to bring home the hardware, you know?”
That would be the highest of peaks.