The Columbia Falls volleyball team will feature several good athletes this year. Coach Addy Connelly said the team will be a mix of junior varsity and varsity players competing for a starting spot each week.
“Every position is wide open,” she said.
The team includes four seniors in Hope Burlage, Allie Dierenfield, Ashton Barta and Shannon Hay. But it also has a lot of potential in the likes of Winter Kemppainen, Tiffany Hummer, Ciera Finberg and Hailey Belgarde.
That’s a group of girls known for their athleticism in other sports, including basketball and softball.
“We’ve really got an athletic group of girls,” Connelly said. “We’re young on the varsity level ... they have a lot of potential.”
All told, 26 girls are on the team, with girls on a “froshmore” squad of sophomores and freshmen.
The team to beat in the conference again this year is Polson, and Whitefish is always tough, Connelly noted. Last year, Columbia Falls won three matches, including two in the divisional tourney, where they took third.
The Wildkats open their season Aug. 31 at the Northwest-Southwest Tip-Off Tournament in Polson. The tourney will open with round-robin play Friday and elimination play Saturday.
It should be a good early test for the girls. The team will be without Belgarde for the tournament, however. She had to leave town for a family matter and won’t have the necessary practices in to play. Belgarde is a force at the net for the Wildkats.
This year’s schedule has the team playing almost every weekend. There are few weekday games in the mix.
Connelly is assisted by Heather Gilchrist and Jessyca Matthews. Matthews is coaching the froshmore team.