GREAT FALLS – Remember back when Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift at the Video Music Awards? That was way back in 2009. That was the last time the Great Falls CMR Rustlers team made it to the Class AA state tournament.
Unlike Kanye and T-Swift, though, this CMR season hasn’t yet been interrupted. The Rustlers shook off that nine-year drought and finally got back to the big dance.
“It’s always your goal. I mean, at the start of the season, when we took over the program last year, was to see how quickly we could get the girls to state,” said CMR head coach Patrick Hiller. “It may have happened a little faster than I thought it was going to, but that’s your goal at the beginning of every year, to see if we can try to get to the state championship and get these girls to see what it looks like.”
There’s way more balance to this team than meets the eye. Beyond the importance of upperclassmen like seniors Teagan Taylor and 6-foot-3 Allie Olsen, some underclassmen are contributing their part, as well, to a successful CMR year, like sophomore Maddie Mohler and freshman Tennisen Hiller.
“I think we’re just all very open-minded about it. We came into this not knowing how anything would turn out player-wise and how we would do into the season,” said Tennisen Hiller. “I think it’s just that we’re constantly changing everything about the team, so I think that keeps us on our toes and we’re ready for anything.”
“I think we work together really well. I feel like we’ve known each other long enough to bond really well as a team. We all just get along together,” said Mohler.
“Since we got here, we talk about volleyball IQ quite a bit. At CMR we just felt like that wasn’t quite where it needed to be,” said coach Hiller. “So we really focused on getting the girls in the gym as much as possible and, more than that, just being around the game as much as possible. So from last year to this year, I think our overall volleyball IQ is that much higher.”
CMR faces a tough task in the first round of the state tournament, playing Helena Capital, which owns the best record in Class AA. But the Rustlers competed well with the Bruins in previous games this season. The norm in the AA has been fluctuating this season, with different teams beating different teams, so anything can happen.
“We’re just going to work together and do the best that we can do and just play our roles in the game,” said Mohler
“We just kind of work with what we get and we just keep playing,” said Tennisen Hiller. “We keep working towards the bigger goal.”