BOZEMAN — Given an option, the Ennis volleyball team prefers the road taken in 2017.
“We’ll take the shorter route,” coach Betty Klein said.
Powered by hitters Jourdain Klein — coach Klein’s daughter — and Danyel Martin, the Mustangs muscled their way into the Class C state volleyball championship match for a second straight year on Friday at Brick Breeden Fieldhouse.
Ennis used 53 kills to defeat defending state champion Belt 25-17, 25-17, 22-25 and a statement-leaving 25-5.
The championship match is 1 p.m. on Saturday. The Mustangs are chasing their first state volleyball title since 2009.
Ennis will play the winner of Belt-Gardiner from the 11 a.m. third-place match.
Belt is guaranteed its third straight state trophy. Gardiner will earn its first since 2014.
The Bruins went five sets with Bridger, prevailing 25-19, 22-25, 24-26, 25-18, 15-10 late Friday night.
Last November, the Huskies forced the Mustangs to take the long road, beating Ennis in the quarterfinals. The Mustangs won two matches before falling to the Huskies in the title match.
“Coming into today, we were looking forward to paying them back for last year,” senior Payton Fortner said. “Everybody is working really hard. Our passes are amazing, we’ve been putting a big block up and our hitters have been playing well.”
Klein and Martin combined for 43 of Ennis' kills. Klein — a junior — had 24, and Martin — a senior — added 19. The 6-foot-3 Martin also had five blocks and five aces; Klein added eight digs and three blocks.
Fortner had 31 assists and 11 digs.
“They are amazing to watch,” Fortner added of her team’s two primary hitters. “Offensively, we have to do our things and that’s attack, attack, attack. We have to play our game, which is swing away.”
Adrian Malek led Belt with 12 kills and 15 digs. Kolby Pimperton had 28 assists.
“We just have to be ready for every game,” Fortner said. “We have to expect the best from everybody we play.”
Gardiner 3, Bridger 2
Sage Cowley was teary-eyed. So were most of her teammates.
“It was such a hard game, going five,” Cowley said, offering an explanation. “More importantly, this team wanted to get a trophy this year.”
Cowley was a freshman libero when the Bruins won their last state title in 2014.
She had a monster double-double of 46 assists and 27 digs against the Scouts. Brook Russell had 16 kills for Gardiner, Kyndra Long 14 and Abby Dean 12.
“At the end, we minimized our errors and didn’t play it safe,” Cowley said. “We attacked and kept going for the ball.
“I’m a little tired but also super-excited to go to the court tomorrow.”
Jessica Adkins had 14 kills for Bridger, and Emily Adkins finished with 14 assists and 16 digs. Sylvia Scianna had 15 assists, and Desiree Scott had 10 kills, 14 digs, three block and an ace.
Bridger finished fourth. The Scouts (10) and Gardiner (3) have combined for 13 state championships.
Gardiner 3, Great Falls Central 2
Cowley put up a triple-double of 33 assists, 30 digs and 10 kills to lead the Bruins in five sets in a loser-out round.
Trailing 2-0, Gardiner won 20-25, 16-25, 25-23, 25-20 15-7 to remain alive.
Russell added a double-double of 15 kills and 21 digs. Long had 12 kills and Chloe Chase 20 digs.
The teams combined for 215 digs.
Bryn Anderson led Great Falls Central with 15 kills and 30 digs. Sara Tarum had 13 kills and 23 digs. Grace Madill finished with 38 assists.
Bridger 3, Roy-Winifred 0
Sylvia Scianna had 28 assists and nine digs to lead the Scouts past the Outlaws 25-23, 25-19 25-18.
The same two teams played for the Southern C title a week ago.
Adkins had 14 kills for Bridger. Cara White had 12 digs and three aces.
Dyauni Boyce had six kills and 10 digs for Roy-Winifred. Cassie Smith had 20 assists and Becca DeMars also had six kills.
Great Falls Central 3, Wibaux 0
Anderson put down 12 kills and had three blocks to help the Mustangs sweep Wibaux 25-17, 25-15, 25-21.
Wibaux, the No. 1 seed out of the East, finished 23-2.
Grace Madill had 20 assists and six aces. Sara Tarum had 17 digs and six aces for the Mustangs.
Toni Schieffer, Marni Schieffer and Jada Llewellyn each had two kills for Wibaux. Nakiya Llewellyn had 13 digs.
Bridger 3, Scobey 0
Emily Adkins and Scianna combined for 42 assists to direct the Scouts to a 25-22, 25-17 25-13 win in loser-out play.
The Scouts defeated the Outlaws less than a week ago for the Southern C Divisional title.
Scott had 13 kills for the Scouts and Jessica Adkins had 12.
Gracee Lekvold led Scobey with 21 digs. Kylee Cook had eight kills for the Spartans and Kass Dahl seven.