BILLINGS – Having to perform in a Class AA volleyball playoff match just isn’t in Billings Senior’s DNA. The Broncs had played just one win-or-go-home match like that since the 2010 season.
So, down a set already to Billings Skyview in Thursday night’s state-tournament qualifier at the Senior gym, the Broncs needed a little reminder as to the gravity of the situation.
“We were in the huddle (before the second set) and one of our coaches came over and said, ‘So, you guys know what’s at stake, right, what kind of stake it is?’ “ Broncs junior Karli Steiner recounted. “And we decided, yeah, we need to go to state. We just decided right there that we’re not going to lose, that we want to be there.”
There, as in Bozeman, is where the Broncs will be next weekend following their 17-25, 26-24, 25-17, 25-15 victory over the Falcons.
Skyview, which had dropped all six previous sets to the Broncs this season, surprised Senior with a bit of a punch to the nose in the opener. But Senior gradually recovered, and found some firm footing after winning five of the final six points of the second set to even things up.
“When they pulled out the second set, then I was like, ‘OK, I feel better,’ " Senior coach Sue Dvorak said. “But these girls, you know, they give me gray hair.”
Steiner led the way for the Broncs with 15 kills, 16 digs, three aces and three blocks. Annika Kotter added 10 kills and six blocks, and Tavy Findon finished with 24 assists and nine kills. Senior, though, had 14 service errors compared to just seven aces.
Skyview, fresh off a playoff win over Great Falls on Tuesday, jumped the Broncs early, leading by 11 at one point before closing out the first set. The Falcons led 23-21 in the second, but the set slipped away. If Skyview could have taken a 2-0 lead, who knows how things might have ended up? Skyview coach Vicki Carle would have loved to find out.
“I love the heart of our team,” said Carle, whose Falcons finished the season 9-22. “I love their heart, I love their guts. Their backs have been against the wall all year and they’ve never let up. They’ve never faltered. I just have so much admiration and respect for these girls.”
Jordan Olson led Skyview with nine kills, and Jessica Ellis had eight. Kamille Reynolds had 16 digs and Bella Bryan had 11 digs, three blocks and seven assists. Ashlynne Copinga led with 16 assists.
Senior (25-7), the two-time state runners-up, enters state as the No. 3 seed in the East. The Broncs will open their tournament Nov. 8 against Helena (21-6), which received a bye into the tournament by finishing second in the West.
“I told the girls at the very end that we earned the trip to state, nobody gave it to you this year,” said Dvorak, who is in her second season with the Broncs. “We had to fight and scratch and crawl, so now we earned the right to play Helena High. So we celebrate the win today and we come in tomorrow and start preparing for Helena.”