BUMP: A pair of unbeaten teams - Saco-Hinsdale and Highwood - enter the tournament on opposite sides of the bracket. Saco-Hinsdale (21-0) slowed Circle's long run of Eastern C dominance, while the Mountaineers (25-0) return for another shot at the state championship. Circle defeated Highwood last fall for the title. The Mountaineers return many of the athletes who also won the Class C state basketball championship in March. Circle and Absarokee are making their fifth consecutive state tournament appearances, while Bridger returns after a short absence. The Scouts have won 10 state titles, the most for any class. This is White Sulphur Springs' first time on the big stage. Simms, which beat Circle for the 2006 state championship, is back in the field. This is Gardiner's first time at the all-class format. The Bruins last played at the state tournament in 1998. "Of course, our goal at the start of the season was to make the state tournament," said Darci Owen, the Saco-Hinsdale head coach. "As the season got rolling, it became more realistic."
SET: Absarokee's Katie Fjare returns a fourth consecutive year to run the Huskies' offense. She is a three-time all-state selection and will likely be a fourth this fall. Highwood's quarterback is Katie Bahnmiller, while Circle's Whitney Peterson brings a wealth of state tournament experience. Bridger's Katie George helps direct a Bridger offense poised for a trophy run. The offense for Saco-Hinsdale is in the hands of sophomore Jessica DePuydt.
SPIKE: The towns of Saco and Hinsdale are small communities in Eastern Montana just 14 miles apart but have combined for a very potent offense. "We can hit from every spot," Owen said. "We're not very tall, but they're all very athletic." The group includes hard-hitting Sacarra Molina, along with Christian Mogan, Jessie Davis and Emili Crowder. Four-year starter Jessie Studiner powers the Absarokee offense, while Jessica Denney has led Bridger. Andrea Sutton returns along the front line for Circle. But all eyes will be on Highwood's Rachel Semansky. The 6-foot senior, who is being recruited by a handful of colleges, has put down 433 kills this season. She also has 53 stuff blocks and 104 aces. Semansky is also second on the Mountaineers for digs.