Soccer turns serious Thursday in Missoula.
Four schools that crowd the top of the Western AA standings are involved in matches that could sort things out - or make them more perplexing.
Boys' and girls' teams from Helena Capital sit atop the pile right now. They'll play at Hellgate's Rattlesnake Fields (girls at 3:30 p.m., boys at 5:30). Both Knights teams are in third place.
Meanwhile, the Sentinel boys try to cling to second place against Kalispell, which could be any where from second to its current three-way tie for fourth when the day is done. The Sentinel girls, who've tied three of their six games, host the Bravettes at 3.
Also on Thursday, Whitefish and Columbia Falls soccer teams stage Round 1 of their battles for Northern A supremacy. This time it's in Whitefish. In two weeks, they close out the regular season in Columbia Falls.
It's a sports weekend of divisional golf - the Northwestern A in Libby on Friday, the Southwestern A in Anaconda on Saturday. The top three teams, plus anyone in the top 15 who isn't on one of those teams, qualify for the state meet in Sidney next week.
The big volleyball event will be the annual Florence Western B Showcase on Saturday. The 12 teams that make up Districts 7-B and 8-B converge at Florence High School starting at 9 a.m. The top four teams compete in semifinals at 5 p.m., followed by the championship at 6.
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Eureka and Missoula Loyola take unbeaten records into the tourney. The two battled for the championship last year, with Eureka prevailing. Rhonda Hammond's Lions have yet to lose a game in regular-season matches while posting a 7-0 mark, 5-0 in District 8-B play. Tim Voth's Breakers of Loyola sport the same record in 7-B action.
Missoula's AA cross-country teams stage their city meet under a new format Saturday at the Pattee Canyon picnic area. Girls run at 10 a.m. and boys at 10:30. After that, teams from local elementary schools will run a mile at 11 a.m., middle school teams go 1 fi miles at 11:30, and any other community runners are invited to retrace the high school's three-mile course at noon. That race too will have a team format. Entry fees are $5 per person.
For more information e-mail Sentinel boys' coach Dave Hamilton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In other cross-country action, Hamilton hosts the Hamilton Invitational at the Daly Mansion. Polson boys and Bigfork girls are defending champs.
Missoula Hellgate is host to the only football game in Missoula. The Knights stage their homecoming game against Great Falls Russell, ranked third in Class AA, at 1 p.m. Saturday in Washington-Grizzly Stadium.