They are not friends but know each other well. Each is the centerpiece to her team’s offensive attack. Intelligent players, they can frustrate defenses with a variety of shots.
Elli Hellerud of Red Lodge and BrieAnna Geck of Huntley Project have faced across the net from each other since fifth grade.
Through countless club and high school volleyball matches, the two have attacked, blocked and countered each other in “hundreds of matches,” Geck estimates. Geck will finish as Huntley Project’s all-time blocker and will be among the top three for career kills. Hellerud is Red Lodge’s career leader for kills and blocks. She set the kills record last season.
The 5-foot-11 Hellerud is the rare left-handed middle hitter who defends. She is a four-year starter and returning all-state player for a Red Lodge team that is 29-3 this season.
“She’s probably one of the smartest hitters we’ve ever worked with,” said Dan Roller, co-coach for Red Lodge along with Greg Mohl. “She has every imaginable shot and can hit into any zone. She is one of our most complete hitters.”
Geck is a 5-11 middle hitter who punishes defenses with a vast array of shots. She is a three-year starter and has already been part of two state championship teams (2007, 2009).
“She’s pretty intense but a whole lot of fun to coach,’’ Red Devils head coach Iona Stookey said.
“She’s very coachable and listens well. She’s smart and brings that to the court.”
While their meetings have been many, the stakes have been raised the past two years. Huntley Project beat Red Lodge last year for the Class B state championship in what was the 10th meeting between the teams. Many expect a rematch this year’s championship when the state tournament gets under way Thursday in Bozeman. However, the Redskins hold a 5-3 edge in wins this season, including one for last week’s Southern Division title.
The two share thoughts of playing each other and the best rivalry in Class B volleyball.
Do you get sick of playing each other?
BrieAnna Geck: Yeah, we do. It’s fun, but there is so much competition between the two teams.
Elli Hellerud: Sometimes, yeah. They’re such a good team, but you do get tired of playing them.
Is anything said across the net considering how often you’ve played against one another?
BG: No, and I don’t know why.
EH: I’ve never actually said anything to her.
What makes the opposing team so tough to play in this rivalry?
BG: (on Red Lodge) They’re just fundamentally sound on defense, and they can bring it.
EH: (on Huntley Project) They have a very good block, they play well as a team and they have very good athletes.
What makes the other player so difficult to contend with?
BG: She’s just a really good player. She can cut the ball. She’s a very smart player. It’s hard to tell what she’s going to do next.
EH: She hits the ball so hard and in so many different spots. She makes you work hard on every play.
Tell us something fans should know about your team.
BG: We do the same warm-up, same everything for every game. We are such a close team, like sisters. We get along so well on the court; that’s what makes the season a whole lot better.
EH: During a pregame practice, we set up a projector screen in the Civic Center and play “Just Dance,” on the Wii and jam out.
Did the rivalry make you a better team?
BG: It’s made practices better. We have to play smarter and better because of them. It’s definitely fun to play them.
EH: I know it makes us work hard and push each other every day in practice.
What’s the key to the state tournament for your team?
BG: Just to relax, play and have fun. We have to take it one game, one point at a time. We have to put everything we have into every game.
EH: To just stay focused and not get nervous. Last year, we got a little nervous. Being there before will help us.
What’s next for each of you?
BG: I really want to play in college. We’ll just have to see what happens after the state tournament.
EH: Honestly, I couldn’t tell you. I’ve talked to a few college coaches about playing next year. We’ll have to wait and see.