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Class B Volleyball Tournament

Florence reacts after a point during the first round of the Class B state volleyball tournament at Brick Breeden Fieldhouse at Montana State University in Bozeman on Thursday. The Falcons beat Joliet and Roundup and are one more win away from the championship round.

Class B

Florence 3, Roundup 0

Last year, Florence lost its first match of the state tournament and had to take the pressure-packed long road to the championship match.

This year, the Falcons are following a much shorter path.

A runner-up a year ago, Florence advanced to Friday’s unbeaten semifinal with a quick 25-19, 25-9, 25-12 over Roundup Thursday night.

The Falcons will play the winner of Thursday's late match, Huntley Project vs. Fairfield, at 6 p.m. Friday.

“It’s a lot nicer,” said Florence junior Sarah Hopcroft of taking the more direct route. “We wanted to make sure we won our first match today so we didn’t have to get on that back road again. Last year that route we took wasn’t easy.”

The Falcons just needed 55 minutes to defeat Roundup. Hopcroft finished with a double-double of 16 kills and 15 digs. She also had five aces, all three match highs. Halle Christopherson had 31 assists.

“We’re playing really well as a team right now,” Hopcroft said.

Florence 3, Joliet 0

Joliet has no seniors on the roster. And that youthfulness showed at inopportune times Thursday afternoon.

“That first match, we were a little nervous,” said J-Hawks coach Colette Webber. “We had too many errors. After that, I thought we battled pretty well with them.”

The Falcons, last year’s Class B runner-up, fought off Joliet 25-22, 26-24, 25-21.

Hopcroft led Florence with a double-double of 16 kills and 21 digs. Christopherson dished out 36 assists, while Shannon Byrne had 25 digs and Sarah Berard 21.

“We made some errors in bad points of the match,” Webber said. “And against a team like Florence you can’t do that.”

Class A

Corvallis 3, Glendive 0

Tiffaney Egan could tell when it happened. The Glendive volleyball coach knew, when her team fell quickly behind in the second set of the day’s opening match, that is was also losing belief.

What confidence the Red Devils had in hanging tough with Corvallis was fading. Corvallis, meanwhile, continued to build its own self-belief and went on for a 25-21, 25-14, 25-9 victory.

Egan gathered her squad afterward and held a lengthy post-match discussion.

“Offensively, we weren’t able to execute on the outside, and that’s generally been a strength of ours,” Egan said. “I think it just kind of beat them down a little bit. They just struggled to find a solution fast enough.”

Maureen Jessop had 12 kills and Charlotte Powell seven blocks for Corvallis.

Billings Central 3, Corvallis 1 

Billings Central topped Corvallis in four sets 23-25, 25-23, 25-23, 25-20 in the late game on Thursday night. 

This was a close match all the way. Every time you looked at the scoreboard the score seemed to be tied. Corvallis actually outhit the Rams, 49-46 in kills, and Central had 109 digs to the Blue Devils’ 105. Casey Fison of Corvallis had 30 digs, while the Rams’ Christy Cox had 26, Avery Hadley 24 and Olivia Moten-Schell 23.

It was just a matter of getting the key point at the key time that helped a team gain control.

“That team is so much like us,” said Moten-Schell, who had 25 kills. “They play kind of the same way we do and it’s nice to play teams like that. It was a really fun game to play in.”

With two wins on the day, the Rams (23-6) move into Friday’s 6 p.m. undefeated semifinal. The win also guarantees the Rams will bring a tournament trophy back with them to Billings.

Maureen Jessop had 16 kills to lead Corvallis (22-5), which will play a loser-out match at 4 p.m. Friday.

Class AA

Billings West 3, Hellgate 0

Missoula Hellgate’s situation was dire, but you couldn’t tell that by their huddle.

Down 2-0 in sets to Billings West, and trailing 19-10 in the third, the Knights were a bundle of laughs. Not what you’d expect from a team facing a sweep in the first round.

“We were just trying to crack jokes, and just trying to get them out of that pressure that they were feeling out there and just to think about something else for a second,” Hellgate coach Matty Hancock said. “This is the big dance and this is a lot of (the players’) first time here. I was just trying to create that loose environment.”

The attempt at levity didn’t pay immediate dividends – the Golden Bears did, indeed, sweep 25-21, 25-19, 25-15 – but maybe it will from here on it. The Knights, at their first state tournament since 2015, play at 10 a.m. in a loser-out match on Friday with still everything to play for.

“Anything is possible,” Hancock said. “There’s a lot of great teams here but there’s a lot of beatable teams as well. So hopefully we can bring our ‘A’ game tomorrow and be more successful.”

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