From left, Helena Capital's Audrey Hofer, Paige Bartsch and Sarah Ashley before Wednesday's practice at Capital High School.

HELENA — With the Bruins and Bengals squaring off Thursday night for crosstown volleyball in the Bears’ Den at Helena Capital, one thing is for sure: it will be rocking.

“We always have a really strong student section,” says Capital coach Rebecca Cleveland. “Crosstown brings that in amplified fashion. Our parents are always there at home and away matches, and faculty and staff at crosstown matches – everybody shows up. So even though it’s a holiday weekend for our district, being a four-day weekend with teacher conventions, I anticipate it still being a very positive crowd.”

It will also be pink night when the top-ranked Bruins (15-0) host No. 2 Helena High. Both teams and their supporters will be dressed in pink to show support for those affected by cancer.

“The pink night, even if it wasn’t crosstown, already brings in a lot of people,” says junior setter Audrey Hofer. “And crosstown makes it have a lot more students. Bringing that extra energy is going to add some extra pressure but I think it’s really fun.”

“We really wanted to host pink night on crosstown because we thought that would be an opportunity to dial up the fundraising,” adds Cleveland, whose aunt is in her final stages of her battle with cancer.

In addition to playing in front of a packed house, the Bruins have an opportunity to come away with a season sweep of the Bengals (13-3).

“It kind of is a statement game for us,” says senior outside hitter Sarah Ashley. “The pressure is on a little bit more because we are the top one and two teams in the state. I think that adds more to the accomplishment of sweeping both crosstowns.”

The Bruins are a better-rounded squad. As long as they do not beat themselves, the season sweep of the Bengals is well within reach.

“It would have to be us not being consistent or losing momentum,” Cleveland says. “They’re a great team, as is Capital volleyball. So, it’s a really strong matchup but I feel like we have more versatility in our offense and stronger defense. We would have to be lax in some of those areas for them to pull a victory.”

“I think we would have to have a lack of communication and missed serves,” adds junior blocker Paige Bartsch.

Cleveland explains that their two most recent matches are good reference points for how they look when they are playing poorly, and how they look when the Bruins are at their best. They won both matches in straight sets, but the score does not always paint the full picture.

“The Butte match, I would actually say that wasn’t our best match,” Cleveland says. “We had a slow start and had some communication errors. We had some errors on serve and serve receive.

“The Hellgate match was one of our best. I would say it was our best to date – everything in place, all teammates bringing their best game, just the opposite of the Butte match. There were no communication errors, strong offense, strong defense and really consistent.”

The Bruins will put their undefeated season on the line Thursday night at 7 p.m. at Capital High School. And don’t forget your pink.

“I think it’s exciting having crosstown on pink night because we’ll have the whole gym dressed out in pink,” Bartsch says. “Whichever team you play for, the whole stands will be dressed out in pink and that’s really cool.”

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Matthew Kiewiet covers high school and community sports for the Independent Record and 406mtsports.com. Email him at matthew.kiewiet@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter @IRmattkiewiet.


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