BOZEMAN — Kylie Frohlich insisted the Missoula Spartans volleyball team knew nothing was given or handed out. No, things had to be earned.
Though others would pronounce the Spartans as favorites to repeat and back up their 2016 championship because of a large contingent of returners, the players took none of that to heart.
“We weren’t expecting anything, we just wanted to fight each game with the people that we have,” Frohlich said shortly after the Spartans did indeed, repeat as Class AA champions with a 25-13, 25-18, 25-22 win over Billings Senior at Brick Breeden Fieldhouse on Saturday. “We did exactly what we wanted to do and we accomplished our goal of just one team, one dream.”
Sentinel topped Senior in the title match for the second season in a row and, for many of these Spartans, it was their third consecutive trip to the championship. Sentinel’s roster is filled with 11 seniors, and several were on the team when they fell to Bozeman in the 2015 championship match.
That turned out to be just the start of what’s been a special run for this group.
“We were so excited and we were ready to take on the next few years,” Elsa Godwin, a senior who had the title-clinching kill, recalled. “Just determination and hard work has really brought us here.”
Godwin finished with 11 kills and Jordyn Schweyen had 29 assists and five blocks. Sarina Moreno had 22 digs, part of an effort that helped limit Senior to just 17 kills.
Raegan Steiner and Kola Bad Bear had five kills to lead Senior. The Broncs, who beat Helena Capital earlier in the day in the third-place match, entered the tournament unbeaten and finished 32-2, with both losses to Sentinel.
Like the Spartans, the Broncs roster is built on several seniors who were hoping this year would turn out differently.
“They gave everything they had in their tank,” first-year coach Sue Dvorak said. “They had a four-set match with Capital with no break in between and had to come out and play against big guns like Sentinel has. I think they left everything they had on the floor. I’m so proud of them.”
Sentinel coach Erin Keffeler had the same thoughts about her team, and saying goodbye to her seniors.
“No regrets, there it is,” she said. “You did it all.”
Billings Senior 3, Helena Capital 1
Relying as it does on so many young players, Capital might have opened some eyes at state. There was one pair of eyes, though, that didn’t need opening.
Bruins coach Rebecca Cleveland foresaw a top-three finish before the season even began. Third, to be exact, is where the Bruins finished after Senior’s 25-21, 25-19, 23-25, 25-18 win in the third-place match.
“Knowing a lot of them outside of school — I’m a teacher at a middle school and I’ve taught quite a few of them — so I knew the skill they had coming into the program,” Cleveland said after her team accepted the third-place trophy. “I know that they are definitely team players and are all about the team and completely unselfish.”
Sophomore Sarah Ashley led the Bruins with 15 kills, and freshman Dani Bartsch had five blocks, eight kills and 16 digs. Audrey Hofer, another freshman, had 16 assists and senior Celina Sanchez added 15. Senior Katie Culver had a team-high 18 digs.
“I feel that we actually peaked at the right time, we peaked at state, which is every coach’s dream,” Cleveland said.
Raegan Steiner had 22 kills and Kola Bad Bear five blocks for the Broncs. Sam Bonenberger contributed 24 assists and 11 digs, and Jordan Gilcrist led with 18 digs.