BOZEMAN – It feels like 2009 Friday at the Montana State Volleyball tournaments.
Nine years ago, Billings West, Billings Central, and Huntley Project all brought state titles back to Yellowstone County, after each won the undefeated semifinal on Friday night. All three are back in 2018 – West, for the first time since that championship.
“In the last interview, we said we haven’t even peaked yet,” said West senior Madeline Dawson. “I think we’re peaking now.”
The Golden Bears picked a good time to play their best match of the season in Thursday’s quarterfinal against Helena High. Not only did they have to come back from a game down, they had to rally from a 6-2 fifth set deficit to beat the No. 2 team in the state.
“I think that was a really big step for us, being able to finish that fifth game, because that’s something that we’ve struggled with,” said West head coach Monica Grimsrud. “We usually beat teams in three or four. We make it to that fifth set, and that’s something we’ve struggled with.”
“Just to be able to ride it out and pull that out mentally, not even physically, was huge for us,” agreed Dawson. “To realize we can do this.”
The celebration was epic, but short-lived. Now. West gets the No. 1 team in the state in Helena Capital, and the Bears are ready.
“They know that Capital is good,” said Grimsrud, “but so are we.”
Central knows what it takes to win in the semis – they did it just last year on their way to the State A title – and they showed that championship poise last night against the West’s top seed Corvallis.
“We’re a really mentally tough team,” said senior Blayne Meyer. “I have so much faith in my teammates. I wasn’t surprised when we came back.”
They did it with defense – 14 blocks in four games.
“Defense first, always,” Meyer said. “If you’re not going to play defense, then you might as well not play.”
“They have some really good hitters on their team,” said middle blocker Cindy Gray, who led the team with seven blocks herself, “and it helped us to work harder and be able to be more consistent in our blocks.”
“I always tell all those front row people that they’re such threats,” Meyer said, “and they need to be a threat.”
The Rams face their biggest threat tonight. Belgrade is 4-0 against them this year. Do you think Central wants Round 5? This was Meyer before she knew Belgrade won their quarterfinal.
“We know we’ll get another shot at them, and I can’t wait to play them again.”
Huntley Project meanwhile was back to its dominant self in the quarters, beating Fairfield in about 45 minutes. They get Florence-Carlton in the semis, who have already beaten Joliet and Roundup. They’ll look to make it three-for-three against the Southern B.