Despite losing seven seniors — including five starters — from last year’s State A championship team, Billings Central coach Liz Hanser was reluctant to call this season a “rebuilding” year.
“Reloading,” she emphasized during the preseason.
Consider the Rams reloaded. They won the Eastern A for the second year in a row and didn’t lose a set in sweeping Glendive, Miles City and Laurel at last weekend’s divisional in Miles City.
Hanser said she had confidence in her team this year, secure in the knowledge that last year’s junior varsity players practiced against the best team in the state: her own.
“These are girls that played every day against a state (championship) team,” Hanser said. “I really think that together they became pretty strong.”
With junior setter Katie Cummins and seniors Tayler Eubank and Taylor Steubs providing some of the veteran experience, seniors Maggie Hanser and Ashley Heringer, junior Abbie Hanser, and sophomore Nicole Wildin have transitioned nicely into starting — and often starring — roles. Heringer and Maggie Hanser both averaged 2.40 kills per set during the regular season, while Heringer also averaged 4.1 digs.
“Little by little this year we’ve gotten better,” coach Hanser said. “Our defense is coming along and offensively we spread it around. We’re down to the top eight (teams) and everybody’s going to be good. I think we have to do our own thing.”
Laurel returns to the state tournament for the first time since 2007. The Locomotives spread the offense pretty evenly among three players: Keilah Ahmann (148 kills), Hannah Weishoff (138) and Sam Sissel (134). Ashley Steinmetz averages 6.6 digs per set. … Lewistown defeated Livingston 3-2 last weekend to win the Central A championship. The teams combined for the top three hitters in the league during the regular season: Dayne Jensen of Lewistown ranked first with 3.71 kills per set, followed by Livingston’s Johanna Chapel (3.10) and Lewistown’s McCalle Feller (2.80). … Polson came from two sets down to win a divisional title for the first time in school history by beating Whitefish for the Northwest A title. Coach Janine Toth’s senior class has concluded a complete turnaround with a 15-1 season; the Pirates were 1-15 when the senior class were freshmen. … After missing the state tournament last year, Dillon is back as the Southwest A champion. The Beavers didn’t lose a set in three divisional matches.
— Mike Scherting