BOZEMAN — No telling where the Missoula Sentinel volleyball team might be in terms of aesthetics had it been healthy all year.
Last year’s Gatorade winner, Elsa Godwin, has missed time. Outside hitter Shelby Schweyen has missed time and setter Jordyn Schweyen has had to adapt to many different lineups with others missing time as well.
But the Spartans’ Erin Keffeler doesn’t sound like a coach lamenting what could have been. Instead, she sounds like a coach who thinks her team has benefited from the injuries.
“Things happen for a reason, you know?” Keffeler said after the defending Class AA champion Spartans swept Helena 25-14, 25-20, 25-18, in the second round of the state tournament Thursday at Brick Breeden Fieldhouse.
"It just gave everybody that maybe wouldn’t have seen as much playing time a lot more playing time, and they did an excellent job. It just showed us we can count on you when we need you if we need you, and they’re ready to go.”
Godwin had 15 kills to help Sentinel hold off the Bengals anytime they charged. Helena made several runs at the Spartans but Sentinel had an answer every time, though the match seemed more competitive than the sweep would indicate.
Jamie Pickens had seven kills and 11 blocks for Helena, which brought high praise from Keffeler.
“Respectfully, (Helena) put up a huge wall, they really did,” she said. “They played amazing defense, blocked a ton of our balls, and I’m proud of my team for covering and just staying calm and confident.”
Sentinel will play in Friday’s 6 p.m. undefeated semifinal against Billings Senior. The Broncs swept Helena Capital in their second-round match.
Senior (31-0) handed Sentinel (23-1) its only loss at the Great Falls Invitational. The Spartans, however, played without injured starters Godwin and Shelby Schweyen, but both are back now. And as happy as Spartans are to be a full strength, Senior coach Sue Dvorak is happy they are, as well.
“We’re looking forward to that match, too, we’re looking forward to playing them healthy to see how we match up with them,” Dvorak said. “It’s going to be a battle of two really, really good teams and really good coaches. I have a lot of respect for Erin (Keffeler) and what she’s done with that team.”
Sentinel 3, Great Falls 0
No time is really a good time to face Sentinel. But at 10 in the morning on the first day of the state tournament?
That was the challenge for Great Falls, and to help the Bison prepare, coach Katherine Sunwall had been having her team practice at 6 a.m. earlier this week. The Spartans, though, were just as spry and opened play with a 25-8, 25-17, 25-17 victory.
At full strength, the Spartans' quick offense seemed to be clicking just fine.
“We’ve played Sentinel twice this year, so we knew how quick they were,” Sunwall said. “Even though you know it’s coming, it’s hard to stop.”
Godwin and Cassie North had 10 kills each for Sentinel. Jordyn Schweyen dished out 36 assists. Danielle Devlin had seven kills and Hailey Little 18 digs for Great Falls.
Great Falls, which is making its first state appearance since 2013, will play Bozeman in a loser-out game at 10 a.m. on Friday.
“We reached a lot of goals this year but we want to keep staying alive in the tournament and keep going,” Sunwall said.
Billings Senior 3, Kalispell Glacier 0
Unbeaten Billings Senior jumped out to a strong start and went on to sweep Kalispell Glacier Thursday afternoon, 25-15, 25-9, 25-22.
Glacier, the fourth seed out of the Western AA, showed some fight at the end of the match, leading 22-20 in the third set. After a well-time timeout by Senior coach Sue Dvorak, the Broncs closed out the set and the match. But Wolfpack coach Christy Harkins said her team doomed itself early on.
“We really struggled serving and passing today,” she offered. “That’s the game. If you can’t serve and can’t pass, you can’t win.”
At least the third set was something to build on for the Wolfpack.
“I think so, it should give them some hope and some energy,” Harkins said. “It should give them some confidence that they can do it … if they start serving and passing.”
Senior served seven aces — two each from Kelsey Sargent and Sam Bonenberger. Kola Bad Bear had 11 kills and she added four blocks, as did Lici Zimmerman, to lead the Broncs.
Aubrie Rademacher had eight kills to lead Glacier. The Wolfpack dropped into a noon loser-out match on Friday against Billings West.