High School Sports


State volleyball preview: Tournaments start Thursday at Bozeman

Posted at 12:56 PM, Nov 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-07 14:56:14-05
Helena Capital libero Kerste Pierce digs the ball Tuesday against Helena High. (RICHIE MELBY/MTN Sports)

The Montana high school state volleyball tournaments start Thursday in Bozeman. The four tournaments — Class AA, Class A, Class B and Class C — will run concurrently at Brick Breeden Fieldhouse on the Montana State University campus.

Below is a brief overview of all four tournaments. For downloadable and printable tournament brackets, please click here. For updated scores and pairings throughout the tournaments, please click here.

Class AA

2017 championship: Missoula Sentinel def. Billings Senior

2017 third-place finisher: Helena Capital

2018 first-round matchups:

Billings West vs. Missoula Hellgate
Billings Senior vs. Helena High
Helena Capital vs. Great Falls CMR
Kalispell Flathead vs. Bozeman


Two-time defending state champion Missoula Sentinel won’t be at the state tournament after the Spartans lost a playoff game to crosstown rival Missoula Hellgate. The Knights, meanwhile, will be making just their third state tournament appearance in the past decade. They placed third in 2009 and lost out in two games in 2015.

Of the eight teams at this year’s tournament, five also qualified last year. In addition to Hellgate, Great Falls CMR and Kalispell Flathead are new faces. The Rustlers last made state in 2009, while Flathead was a perennial staple through 2015. The Bravettes missed the tournament in 2016 and 2017, though.

The other five teams in this year’s bracket — Billings Senior, Billings West, Bozeman, Helena High and Helena Capital — are no strangers to Brick Breeden Fieldhouse. All have been regulars at the state tournament, with Senior leading the way. The Broncs are making their 14th consecutive trip to the state tournament — Class AA’s longest active streak. In the past 13 years, Senior has won seven state championships, finished second three times and third once. The Broncs, who have won a Montana record 12 state volleyball championships, have won a trophy in each of the past seven years. The Hawks own Class AA’s second-longest active streak of state tournament appearances, as they’ve now qualified 10 consecutive seasons.

Helena High has finished fourth each of the past three seasons. The Bengals missed the state tournament in 2014, but they also earned trophies the previous four years, winning back-to-back championships in 2010 and 2011.

Helena Capital finished the season as the top-ranked team in the Class AA volleyball coaches poll. Helena High was second, Kalispell Flathead third, Billings West fourth and Bozeman fifth.

Class A

2017 championship: Billings Central def. Belgrade

2017 third-place finisher: Corvallis

2018 first-round matchups:

Corvallis vs. Glendive
Billings Central vs. Columbia Falls
Libby vs. Hardin
Belgrade vs. Whitefish


The foursome of Belgrade, Billings Central, Columbia Falls and Corvallis has dominated the Class A state tournament in recent years with some combination of those teams meeting for the past four state championships. Defending champion Billings Central is making its 11th consecutive appearance at the state tournament, the longest active streak in Class A. The Rams won the state championship in 2009 and have since finished no worse than fourth.

In order to repeat, the Rams will have to contend with Belgrade, last year’s runner-up. The Panthers have arguably been Class A’s best team this season and are coming into the state tournament off a dominant showing at last week’s Eastern A divisional. Belgrade is making its eight consecutive trip to state and is looking to keep improving on its previous finish: The Panthers placed third in 2016 and second in 2017. This is Belgrade’s final year in Class A, as the Panthers are moving up to Class AA for the 2019-20 school year.

Corvallis is also making its eighth straight appearance at state, claiming a state championship in 2013, a runner-up finish in 2015 and a third-place finish last year. In Thursday’s first round, Corvallis will again play Glendive, which is making back-to-back trips to state. Corvallis swept Glendive in the teams’ first-round meeting last year.

Of state tournament teams, only Columbia Falls and Hardin are new to the bracket this year. Neither team played at the 2017 state tournament, but both have plenty of history on their side. The Wildkats won championships in 2015 and 2016, and Hardin is one of just two Class A programs to win three consecutive titles, which the Bulldogs did from 1993-95. Whitefish is the other Class A team to three-peat, winning titles in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Whitefish has a Class A-best six state championships.

Class B

2017 championship: Huntley Project def. Florence

2017 third-place finisher: Joliet

2018 first-round matchups:

Choteau vs. Roundup
Florence vs. Joliet
Huntley Project vs. Wolf Point
Fairfield vs. Deer Lodge


Huntley Project, which is seeking its 10th consecutive championship appearance, has won 63 consecutive matches and has finished no worse than second since 2008, winning titles in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2017. The Red Devils finished second in 2014, 2015 and 2016. In all, they have won 10 Class B state championships, adding titles in 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007.

Of Project’s 10 titles, last year was the first the Red Devils won over a team from a conference other than the Southern B. Florence’s appearance in the 2017 championship snapped a streak of eight consecutive years of the championship match featuring only Huntley Project, Red Lodge or Forsyth. Project and Red Lodge met for the championship six times, and Project and Forsyth met twice. Florence has finished fourth or better the past six seasons, claiming third-place trophies in 2012, 2013 and 2014 and a runner-up finish in 2017.

The Northern B hasn’t had a team play for the title since volleyball moved to the fall in 2002 (Roundup won two State B championships in 2002, defeating Troy for the title in March and Huntley Project for the title in November). Conrad was the last Northern B team to play for a state championship when the Cowgirls lost to Roundup in 2001. Choteau, Fairfield and Wolf Point will try to end that streak this weekend.

Class C

2017 championship: Ennis def. Belt

2017 third-place finisher: Gardiner

2018 first-round matchups:

Manhattan Christian vs. Plentywood
Bridger vs. Simms
Belt vs. Hobson-Moore-Judith Gap
Scobey vs. Ennis


Manhattan Christian might have blazed the most impressive path to the Class C state tournament, defeating perennial powers Gardiner and Ennis at last week’s Western C divisional tournament. Manhattan Christian will be the West’s No. 1 seed at the state tournament, and Ennis will be the second seed, leaving Gardiner out of the state bracket for the first time since 2011. The Bruins won their first-round match all six years in that stretch and claimed championships in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Between Gardiner, Ennis and Manhattan Christian, the West has been a fixture in the title game, with one (or two) of those teams playing for the championship in eight of the past nine seasons.

Belt has been just as consistent, qualifying for the state tournament every season since 2010. That’s the longest active streak in Class C, and the Huskies, who enter as the Northern C’s No. 1 seed, have played for the championship four of the past five seasons. They won the 2016 title and placed second last year.

Bridger, which has won 10 Class C state championships under Hall of Fame coach Wayne Moorman, is back at the state tournament as the No. 1 seed out of the South. The Scouts lost just one set in postseason play this fall, sweeping their way through the District 4C tournament and suffering their only set loss to Hobson-Moore-Judith Gap in the Southern C divisional championship.