BOZEMAN — Corvallis took control of the fifth set early and earned its way into the Class A volleyball championship match for the first time since 2015 with a win over two-time defending champion Billings Central in the undefeated semifinal Friday night at Brick Breeden Fieldhouse.
Corvallis won 25-20, 25-16, 14-25, 23-25, 15-9 by scoring five of the first six points in the deciding set, grabbing whatever momentum the Rams had gained when Cindy Gray put down the final kill in set four.
Even first-year Corvallis coach Laurie Jones wasn’t exactly sure how her team recovered so quickly.
“Yeah, that might be a loaded question,” she said with a chuckle. “I don’t think there’s any black-and-white answer. I think no matter what the match is, no matter what the score is, our goal was to keep pushing and it panned out that fifth game.”
Give Jones bonus points for honesty. And give the Blue Devils a chance to win their first state title since 2013.
“It’s what we’ve been talking about all season, and we knew (Billings Central) was the favorite,” said Corvallis senior Hannah Hutchison, who had nine kills and 13 digs. “So it means a lot. We’re probably going to see them again in the championship.”
The Rams hope so, too, but they’ll have to win the third-place match Saturday morning for a chance to defend their title. Then, whomever advances to play Corvallis, they’ll have to beat the undefeated Blue Devils twice in the double-elimination format tournament.
“We made it tough on ourselves but I definitely think we’re capable,” Rams coach Kylie Reitz said. “I told the girls we got outplayed in so many different aspects that we have lots of room to play better tomorrow and change the tide for us. Hopefully, it’s going to be a long day.”
Olivia Moten-Schell had 21 kills for lead the Rams. Cindy Gray had 10 kills and four blocks, while Maria Stewart had 22 digs and 35 assists.
Isabel Evans had 16 kills and Madeline Gilder 11 kills and 12 digs for Corvallis. Hannah Martin finished with 40 assists and Casey Fison 13 digs.
“I’m feeling a lot of things right now, honestly,” Jones said. “I’m just kind of in shock right now. I’m glad for all of us, the fans, the players, the coaches, that we’re in the championship match.”
Bozeman 3, Missoula Sentinel 1
The second day of the Class AA state tournament is all about survival, especially in the early loser-out action and Friday, the first team to survive was Bozeman.
The Hawks took on Missoula Sentinel in a win-or-go-home matchup and the Class AA runner-up from 2018 earned themselves another match with a 3-1 win by the scores 25-12, 19-25, 26-24 and 25-23.
Sasha Hathaway was stellar for the Hawks as she notched team highs in kills and aces with 19 and five respectively. Kamryn Larson also managed 12 kills.
Sheridan Schweyen led Missoula Sentinel with nine kills. Sierra Dennison tallied five blocks.
Hardin 3, Polson 0
Alyssa Pretty Weasel and Jonna Lind combined for 30 kills to help Hardin sweep Polson.
Pretty Weasel finished with 16 kills and Lind 14 for the Bulldogs, who finished with 37 kills overall compared to Polson’s 27 in the 25-13, 26-24, 25-22 win.
Grace Quinones led Polson with 11 kills and added 11 digs.
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Havre 3, Columbia Falls 2
The Blue Ponies brought the Wildkats season to an end with a 25-17, 21-25, 20-25, 25-20, 15-10 win in a loser-out match.
Angellica Street led the Wildkats 39 digs and four aces. Kiera Brown added 15 kills and four blocks.
Florence 3, Choteau 1
Florence completed an impressive run of three match wins at the state tournament Friday with an evening victory over Choteau, 25-17, 19-25, 25-17, 25-23. The Falcons can earn a berth in the championship against Huntley Project with a win over Joliet in the loser-takes-third match Saturday morning at 10 a.m.
Sarah Hopcroft floored 28 kills in the win over Choteau. Kolbi Wood collected 40 digs.
Florence 3, Townsend 1
Florence held off two set points in the third set and went on to defeat Townsend 25-17, 19-25, 27-25, 25-15 in an afternoon loser-out match. It was the second win of the day for the Falcons.
Hopcroft had 21 kills and 29 digs to lead Florence, which trailed 24-22 and 24-23 in the third set before taking it. Emma Stensrud had seven blocks and Wood had 27 digs.
Peyton Vogl led Townsend with 10 kills and six blocks. Townsend had 15 blocks overall. Alleigh Burdick finished with 28 digs.
Florence 3, Glasgow 0
Florence began its long road back to a possible third consecutive Class B state championship appearance with a morning sweep of Glasgow in a loser-out match. The Falcons rebounded from Thursday’s first-round loss at the state tournament to defeat the Scotties 25-8, 25-22, 25-21.
Hopcroft had 14 kills, 12 digs and five blocks to lead Florence. Halle Christopherson and Kasidy Yeoman each had 13 assists, and Wood had 13 digs. Stensrud also had five blocks.
Charlo 3, Westby-Grenora 0
Charlo missed an opportunity to pull an upset in the opening round of the state tournament, falling to Fort Benton in four sets Thursday.
But on Friday, the Vikings kept their hopes alive, defeating Westby-Grenora in straight sets 25-20, 25-15 and 25-18 to stay alive.
Carlee Fryberger filled the stat sheet for Charlo as she totaled 15 kills, three blocks and an ace. Kassidi Cox added 20 assists and Destiny Manuel had 21 digs.
Plentywood 3, Charlo 2
The Vikings ran out of gas in their second losers' bracket match of the day, falling to Plentywood 25-20, 19-25, 23-25, 25-19, 15-8.
Fryberger continued her strong play with 20 kills and three aces. Manuel added 35 digs.