TRACK AND FIELD
TRACK AND FIELD
NWMT 'A' LINKS
FTOWN AND CFALLS TO REPRESENT NW 'A'
November 8, 2012Northwest Montana A Conference
Two-time defending state champion Lewistown (12-11) has won four of the last five state tournaments, but will be pushed in the first round by Eastern A champion Billings Central in a rematch of last year’s state title match.
The surprise entry to this year’s State A tournament is a Frenchtown team that has a first-year head coach in Gypsy Ray and no seniors on the roster.
The Broncs entered last weekend’s Northwestern A divisional as the tournament’s fourth seed with a 5-9 record. But four wins later, Frenchtown stands at .500 and owns a No. 1 seed at state.
“These girls truly believed they could do it,” said Ray. “And they proved it to everyone else when they did. These girls are fantastic individual athletes and they knew that. What it was really all about was figuring out how to become a great team.”
Junior setter Josie Anderson drives the Frenchtown offense toward junior hitters Jadan Ross and Morgan Ray and sophomore Vanessa Stavish.
The Broncs will meet Southwestern A No. 2 seed Butte Central (11-6), which is making its first appearance at state. The Maroons are led by seniors Danee Leary and Mariah Cooney.
Corvallis (12-5) breezed to the Southwestern A divisional championship behind a strong tournament by sophomore outside hitter Joanna Avery. Setters Laura Berner and Alex Price add to the Blue Devils’ depth of talent and senior middle blocker Kelsey Raynal has come on strong as of late.
Columbia Falls (7-11) is Corvallis’ first-round opponent. The Wildkats rallied from a last-place finish in the Northwestern A regular-season standings to earn the league’s second seed at state. The Wildkats are bolstered by senior outside hitter Hope Burlage, junior outside hitter Haley Belgarde and senior setter Alli Dierenfield.
Belgrade (23-1) takes on Laurel in the last first-round match of the day.
In the Class A bracket, Columbia Falls (7-11, 2-6 Northwestern A) opens the state tournament at 2 p.m. today against Corvallis (12-5, 7-3 Southwestern A).
Columbia Falls struggled against conference opponents during the regular season and entered the Northwestern A divisional tournament as the fifth seed, but pulled upsets over Libby, Whitefish and Polson in loser-out matches to claim second place and its first state tournament berth since 2003.
“We’ve been tight in most of our games all season long,” Columbia Falls coach Addy Connelly said. “I think the girls were just ready to go.”
Connelly said Columbia Falls’ momentum began at the Missoula Invitational when the Wildkats won a game against Whitefish, Northwestern A’s top team in the regular season.
“Whitefish has always been a mental hurdle for us,” she said.
Three weeks later, Columbia Falls drew Frenchtown in the first round of the Northwestern A divisional tournament. It lost in four sets before sweeping Libby to avoid elimination.
“I think it was good that we lost the first game to Frenchtown and had to go play Libby,” Connelly said. “We watched those other teams and realized they could be beat.”
Columbia Falls knocked off Whitefish in straight sets, then beat Polson in four before losing to Frenchtown in the divisional championship game.
The Wildkats drew a familiar opponent in Corvallis for their state tournament opener. Columbia Falls lost 25-14, 26-24 to Corvallis at the Northwestern A vs. Southwestern A tip-off tournament in Polson. It lost to Corvallis again in a four-set match Sept. 1 before topping Corvallis in five on Oct. 18.
“They’re tough servers so we’ll have to be ready to take care of that,” Connelly said. “They’ve also got a good blocking game.”
Columbia Falls’ offense is led by setter Alli Dierenfield and outside hitters Haley Belgarde and Hope Burlage. Dierenfield averages 4.09 assists per set. Burlage and Belgarde average 2.64 and 2.59 kills per set respectively.
If Columbia Falls beats Corvallis, it will take on the winner between Belgrade (23-1, 8-0 Central A) and Laurel (10-10, 5-5 Eastern A) at 8 p.m today.