BOZEMAN — When her older sisters would talk state championships, Ashton Albrecht had to remain quiet.
Now it’s her turn to speak up at the dinner table.
“Yes I can,” the Huntley Project senior said with a continuous smile.
Albrecht and her Red Devil teammates swept Florence 25-17, 25-22, 25-20 to win the Class B state volleyball championship Saturday afternoon at Brick Breeden Fieldhouse.
Adopting the motto, “Let’s be great,” Huntley Project (33-0) finished unbeaten for the third time program history, joining the 2003 and 2004 teams. It is the Red Devils' 10th state championship, the most for Class B and tied for second-most for any class. Bridger has won 10 Class C titles and Billings Senior 12 in Class AA.
“We talked about it,” Albrecht said of conversation among the players. “We made it our goal.
“It’s crazy, winning the state title. We knew we had a lot of people looking at us and we had to prove we could do it this year.”
A team from the Southern B Division has won the last 12 state championships.
Alana Graves led Huntley Project with 14 kills. Kamille Reynolds had a double-double of 18 digs and 10 kills. Maggie Taylor added 17 digs and Addy Hultgren 11 for a Red Devils defense that never allowed the Falcons an easy play. Heidi Cranford dished out 21 assists and Addy Hultgren 17.
“Our defense is what won us games in the tournament,” Albrecht said, still holding the pairings placard. “We went after every single ball.”
Albrecht is one of four players on the team that had older sisters win state titles. She is joined by Hultgren, Cranford (and Samantha Cranford) and Taylor.
Huntley Project did not drop a set in four matches.
“We came out focused for every match,” said Huntley Project coach Iona Stookey, the state’s winningest volleyball coach. “Florence is a great team. They’re so scrappy. I was nervous. They were the only team we hadn’t played. We had to press them. We tried to serve them tough. Our defense won a lot of sets for us.”
Sarah Hopcroft led Florence with 17 kills. Shay Waldbillig had 22 assists.
The Falcons advanced to the title match with a five-set victory over Joliet earlier in the day.
Albrecht is just one of three seniors on a Huntley Project roster that included three juniors and six sophomores.
“We grew up together,” Albrecht said of the team’s cohesiveness. “We’ve been playing together since fourth grade. We’ve become family. We know what is in each other’s heads.”
Albrecht was 9 years old when sisters Samantha and Kaitlin won a state title for Huntley Project.
“They make fun of me sometimes,” the younger sister acknowledged. “I’m just so excited. I’ve been waiting for this for three years.”
Florence 3, Joliet 2
The Falcons crashed the Southern B party with a dramatic 25-18, 20-25, 16-25, 25-21, 15-11 win over the J-Hawks. Florence trailed 12-10 in the final set before reeling off five consecutive points for the win.
“We have lot of young players, that’s going to happen sometimes,” said Joliet coach Colette Webber, whose 12-player roster has just two seniors to go along with three juniors, four sophomores and three freshmen.
Hopcroft had 19 kills and Shannon Byrne 18 for Florence. Hudsyn Dibrito had 23 digs and Waldbillig 50 assists.
Joliet, with only two seniors, was led by freshman Makenna Bushman’s 19 kills. Vanessa Nowak added 16 and Shayla Webber 10. Webber also had 21 assists and 22 digs, and Joelle Luoma had 25 assists and 21 digs. Skyler Wright, also a freshman, had 20 digs and two aces. Webber and Luoma are both sophomores.
“What we did well was fight,” Webber said. “They didn’t give up. It would have been easy to give up after losing to Huntley Project (in Friday’s unbeaten semifinal).
It is the J-Hawks' first Class B state trophy in volleyball. Joliet was part of a 1-3-4 finish by the Southern B Divisional, joined by Jefferson.
“That’s the plan. We’re hoping to be back here next year,” Webber said.