BOZEMAN - Familiar foes. Familiar place. Familiar time.
Top-ranked Billings Senior and second-ranked Billings West will meet in tonight's undefeated semifinal of the State AA volleyball tournament after both teams won two matches Thursday.
The teams met in similar circumstances last season as Senior went on to win its third consecutive title. The Broncs won last year's undefeated battle - and also the championship against West - and they have won both matches the teams have played this year.
The Broncs are 29-0 this season and have won their past 63 matches.
"We look for us to show up a little better than we generally do," West coach Beth Tocci said, referencing her team's recent matches against the Broncs. "We're there and we're very pleased, and we're not satisfied with that.
"But I think we need to alleviate some of the rah-rah and just let the kids go out and fight through it. Just play. Because we all pull our spandex on one foot at a time."
In other unbeaten semifinals tonight, it will be Lewistown vs. Libby in Class A, Huntley Project vs. Townsend in Class B and Saco-Hinsdale vs. Highwood in Class C.
Senior advanced with 3-0 wins over Kalispell Flathead and Missoula Sentinel. Kylie Kufeld had 14 kills and Kylie Edinger had 12 against Flathead, while Kufeld had 14 and Edinger had 11 against Sentinel.
Kufeld and Edinger helped spur the Broncs on from a 14-14 tie in the third game against Sentinel, as Senior scored the final nine points of the game to end the match.
"Throughout the match we said, 'What are we here for?' and we just pulled together as a team," said Edinger, who signed Wednesday to play at Montana State. "We know what we want, and we kicked it into gear."
West won over Kalispell Glacier and Helena, the top seed from the Western AA, to earn its semifinal berth. The Golden Bears won by scores of 3-1 and 3-0, but they had to scrap a bit more than the scores indicated.
"I think we played well," West libero Erin Compton said. "We got all the jitters out that you always have coming into state. But they were fun games, competitive, and I think that's going to prepare us even more" for today's match.
Cherina Walen had 10 kills to lead the Bears (24-7) against Glacier, while Mikensi Romersa had 12 in the win over Helena. Tocci, the West coach, credited Compton, Aly Wardell (16 digs against Helena) and setter Alex Faught for getting the team over its rough patches, particularly against Helena, where each of the final two games were tight until the end.
"You're always counting on the big hits and the big blocks, but those kids who do the grunt work - Erin, Aly and Alex - sometimes we forget about them," Tocci said. "But they had a nice match."
Tonight's unbeaten semifinal is scheduled for 6, with the winner advancing to Saturday's championship.
"We know that the Friday game is the hardest because you have to sit around all day and just wait," Senior's Kufeld said. "We just want to make sure we stay focused and not let down."