The Kalispell Glacier volleyball team finally claimed the championship of the annual 16-team Missoula Invitational tournament after three straight second-place finishes.
Saturday afternoon at Missoula Sentinel, the fifth-ranked Wolfpack completed their run to a title in fashion with a 25-13, 29-27 defeat of crosstown Western AA rival, No. 2 Kalispell Flathead.
After completing pool play Friday with an 11-3 mark, Glacier began Saturday’s action by advancing to the tournament semifinals with a 25-19, 25-19 victory over Great Falls High.
A 25-14, 25-20 win against Helena Capital in the semis brought the Wolfpack face-to-face with a familiar foe in the title tilt. And with a big lift from 5-foot-5 sophomore setter Hannah Liss, Glacier took home a first-place trophy from the invite for the first time in the school’s six-year history.
“We’ve been second for the last three years in a row, so the goal for these girls was just to better that result this time around,” said Wolfpack head coach Christy Harkins. “It’s nice to have this kind of high-quality volleyball in the Flathead so that we’re playing each other in the championship. That’s the goal when you open the two schools is that you want both programs to excel.”
The Bravettes were without star senior outside hitter/middle blocker Kwyn Johnson. The 6-3 Arizona State recruit sat out the weekend to rest a sore left hitting shoulder, which has been bothering her throughout the season.
Regardless of the outcome in the championship, veteran Flathead head coach Leon Wilcox relished the chance to use the weekend to get some much-needed match action from some of his less experienced players.
“I think it it was a great opportunity for our younger kids to get some quality time in some pressure situations,” said Wilcox. “Strengthening our bench really only makes our team stronger. For them to make the finals without Kwyn, I think that’s a big statement and confidence-builder.”
Liss was the catalyst for the Wolfpack against Flathead. She posted team-high totals with 25 assists, five digs and three aces in sparking Glacier to the title.
“Hannah does so much for us,” Harkins said. “She runs the offense and she’s a great server. She’s been working really hard on playing good defense and she did that today too by leading us in digs. She’s just got a great court sense.”
Junior middle blocker Cassidy Hashley provided the Wolfpack with 10 kills and five digs. Tiffany Marks added three blocks for Glacier.
For the Bravettes, senior setter Emily Russell had 10 assists and five digs and senior outside hitter Cassie Krueger floored six kills. Flathead also received five digs and two aces from junior libero Nouf Rashoodi and three blocks from junior middle blocker Emma Andrews.
Sentinel earned a third-place finish with a heart-pounding 25-18, 16-25, 25-20 defeat of Helena High in the consolation match.
In the consolation bracket at Missoula Hellgate, the host Knights snagged the championship with a 26-24, 25-22 victory over Great Falls CMR.
When it was over Harkins pointed to the weekend as a possible springboard toward further success the rest of the season.
“I had my captains speak to the team afterward,” Harkins said. “And they told the girls that they’ve come so far, but we still have so far to come with this team. We’re gelling together really nicely and everybody’s working really hard and getting a little bit better every weekend. This is just a great testament to how hard these girls have been working.”
at Sentinel High School
First round – Helena Capital def. Missoula Big Sky, 25-14, 25-19; Kalispell Glacier def. Great Falls High, 25-19, 25-19; Helena High def. Polson, 25-13, 28-26; Kalispell Flathead def. Missoula Sentinel, 25-16, 25-21.
Semifinals – Glacier def. Capital, 25-14, 25-20; Flathead def. Helena, 19-25, 25-21, 26-24.
Loser-out first round – Great Falls def. Big Sky, 25-19, 25-23; Sentinel def. Polson, 25-16, 25-11.
Loser-out semifinals – Helena def. Great Falls, 25-9, 25-21; Sentinel def. Capital, 25-23, 25-14.
Third-place match – Sentinel def. Helena, 25-18, 16-25, 25-20.
Glacier def. Flathead, 25-13, 29-27.
Kills – Glacier 32 (Cassidy Hashley 10), Flathead 10 (Cassie Krueger 6). Blocks – Glacier 5 (Tiffany Marks 3), Flathead 5 (Emma Andrews 3). Digs – Glacier 25 (Hashley 5, Hannah Liss 5), Flathead 26 (Emily Russell 5, Nouf Rashoodi 5). Assists – Glacier 27 (Liss 25), Flathead 12 (Russell 10). Aces – Glacier 6 (Liss 3), Flathead 4 (Rashoodi 2).
at Hellgate High School
First round – Anaconda def. Whitefish, 25-23, 25-18; Great Falls CMR def. Libby, 23-25, 26-24, 16-14; Frenchtown def. Butte, 25-14, 25-16; Missoula Hellgate def. Columbia Falls, 25-16, 25-16.
Semifinals – CMR def. Anaconda, 25-22, 25-22; Hellgate def. Frenchtown, 25-18, 25-20.
Loser-out first round – Libby def. Whitefish, 25-17, 25-22; Butte def. Columbia falls, 25-13, 25-20.
Loser-out semifinals – Frenchtown def. Libby, 25-17, 25-21; Anaconda def. Butte, 25-21, 25-14.
Third-place match – Anaconda def. Frenchtown, 27-25, 25-15.
Championship – Hellgate def. CMR, 26-24, 25-22.
Belgrade wins Blocktoberfest championship
At Butte, Belgrade cruised through pool play, avoided a scare in the first round, swept their way though semifinals and were crowned champions of the Butte Central Blocktoberfest after beating host Butte Central 25-13, 22-25, 15-11.
A day after beating Class AA Billings West in four games, Belgrade had little trouble on its way to the championship Saturday. The Panthers dropped just two of the twelve set they played.
Belgrade entered the tournament’s playoff in second place despite an undefeated pool play record. They went on to beat two-time defending state champion Lewistown in the first round. Lewistown was able to get a game from Belgrade, the second of a best-of-three, Belgrade won the decisive set 15-12.
The Panthers swept Corvallis in the semifinals, setting up the championship tilt with Butte Central.
Dillon 25-23 over Livingston, Belgrade 25-20 over Stevensville, Livingston 25-17 over Loyola, Belgrade 25-19 over Dillon, Livingston 25-20 over Stevensville, Belgrade 25-9 over Loyola, Dillon 25-18 over Stevensville, Belgrade 25-21 over Livingston, Stevensville 25-20 over Loyola, Dillon 25-14 over Loyola.
1. Dillon, 2. Belgrade, 3. Livingston, 4. Stevensville, 5. Loyola
Belgrade 2-1 (25-18, 21-25, 15-12) over Lewistown
Belgrade 2-0 ( 25-16, 25-22) over Corvallis
Belgrade def. Butte Central 25-13, 22-25, 15-11