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Class AA

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Trophy Hoist

Missoula Sentinel's players hoist their championship trophy after beating Billings Senior for the State AA volleyball title Saturday.

2017 champion: Missoula Sentinel

The field: Billings West (18-10), Billings Senior (25-7), Bozeman (21-7), Great Falls CMR (17-13), Helena (21-6), Helena Capital (24-2), Kalispell Flathead (19-11), Missoula Hellgate (11-15)

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Helena Capital volleyball

Helena Capital sweeps crosstown rival Helena High 3-0 to win the Western Conference title in a recent game in the Jungle.

Overview: Two-time defending champion Sentinel didn’t make it out of the playoff round, making AA the only classification without a returning champion. Capital has had a dominating season, losing to only Helena and Senior (in a best-of-3 match at the Great Falls Invitational). Calling the Bruins the favorite, though, doesn’t overshadow the fact there are a handful of teams capable of tripping up them up. West and Bozeman tied atop the Eastern AA (the Golden Bears won the tiebreaker to get the top seed) and Senior is the two-time runner-up. By finishing second in the West, Helena High gave the capital city its first 1-2 league finish in city history.

1
Thu 11/8 10 a.m.
1E Billings West 3
4W Missoula Hellgate 0
2
Thu 11/8 12 p.m.
3E Billings Senior
2W Helena
3
Thu 11/8 2 p.m.
1W Helena Capital
4E Great Falls CMR
4
Thu 11/8 4 p.m.
3W Kalispell Flathead
2E Bozeman
5
Billings West
Winner of 2
6
Winner of 3
Winner of 4
11
Winner of 5
Winner of 6
14
Winner of 11
Winner of 13
7
Missoula Hellgate
Loser of 2
8
Loser of 3
Loser of 4
9
Winner of 7
Loser of 6
10
Loser of 5
Winner of 8
12
Winner of 9
Winner of 10
13
Loser of 11
Winner of 12
15

Interesting first-round matchup: Senior vs. Helena. On paper, this one appears to be the most evenly matched, though the Broncs have been searching for consistent play since losing standout Kola Bad Bear to a knee injury last month.

Fun fact: CMR ended a tourrnament drought by qualifying. The Rustlers' last state appearance came in 2009. Butte has the longest absence; the Bulldogs haven’t been to state since 2006.

Class A

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Class A Volleyball - Billings Central Rams

Billings Central celebrates its Class A championship November 11, 2017 in Bozeman. The Rams only dropped two games, both to Class AA Billings Senior, all season.

2017 champion: Billings Central

The field (records as provided): Belgrade (26-2), Billings Central (21-6), Columbia Falls (15-7), Corvallis (23-4), Glendive (24-9), Hardin (15-13), Libby (21-5), Whitefish (13-8)

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Belgrade volleyball

Bailey Christensen (13), Taylor Christensen (30) and McKenna Carlson celebrate a kill shot by Bailey Christensen in Belgrade's four-set volleyball victory over Billings Central on Saturday in a clash of Class A titans. The game was a rematch of last year's state championship won by Billings Central.

Overview: Determined to make its final season in Class A a memorable one, Belgrade has put together an impressive regular season. The Panthers, who will play in AA next season, have dropped just eight sets and haven’t lost to a Class A team (Class AA Billings Senior and Class B Huntley Project are the two teams to beat Belgrade). There are some good challengers, but defending champ Billings Central is 0-4 against the Panthers this season and Belgrade won its only meeting with Corvallis. Libby took fourth a year ago, meaning last year’s top four teams all return. But challengers to the Panthers will have to solve Belgrade’s balance and effective serving.

1
Thu 11/8 10 a.m.
1W Corvallis 3
4E Glendive 0
2
Thu 11/8 12 p.m.
2E Billings Central
3W Columbia Falls
3
Thu 11/8 2 p.m.
2W Libby
3E Hardin
4
Thu 11/8 4 p.m.
1E Belgrade
4W Whitefish
5
Thu 11/8 6 p.m.
Corvallis
Winner of 2
6
Thu 11/8 8 p.m.
Winner of 3
Winner of 4
11
Fri 11/9 6 p.m.
Winner of 5
Winner of 6
14
Sat 11/10 1 p.m.
Winner of 11
Winner of 13
7
Fri 11/9 10 a.m.
Glendive
Loser of 2
8
Fri 11/9 12 p.m.
Loser of 3
Loser of 4
9
Fri 11/9 2 p.m.
Winner of 7
Loser of 6
10
Fri 11/9 4 p.m.
Loser of 5
Winner of 8
12
Fri 11/9 8 p.m.
Winner of 9
Winner of 10
13
Sat 11/10 11 a.m.
Loser of 11
Winner of 12
15
Sat 11/10 3 p.m.

Interesting first-round matchup: Libby vs. Hardin. The Loggers put together another fine season, while the Bulldogs, one of two newcomers to the field (Columbia Falls the other) seems to be playing to its potential in the postseason.

Fun fact: Glendive has reached the state tournament in back-to-back years for the first time in school history.

Class B

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Huntley Project volleyball

After adopting the motto "Let's Be Great", the Red Devils did just that. They made Class B history by sweeping Florence in Bozeman to win their 10th title and finish undefeated (33-0) for the third time. Only Billings Senior in Class AA (12) and Bridger in Class C (10) have won as many crowns. The Red Devils didn't drop a single set throughout the tournament. “It’s crazy, winning the state title," HP senior Ashton Albrecht said. "We knew we had a lot of people looking at us and we had to prove we could do it this year.”

2017 champion: Huntley Project

The field (records as provided): Choteau (21-0), Deer Lodge (17-5), Fairfield (17-8), Florence (19-2), Huntley Project (30-0), Joliet (19-10), Roundup (21-10), Wolf Point (23-3)

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Class B volleyball - Huntley Project

Huntley Project celebrates during its 2017 Class B volleyball state title win over Florence in Bozeman.

Overview: The defending champion Red Devils have reached the championship round each of the last nine seasons, and their regular season gave little indication that that run might be over. The Red Devils have won 63 consecutive matches dating back to last year, a run that includes a win earlier this season over Belgrade, which has its sights set on the Class A title. Last year’s runner-up, Florence, who, like Huntley Project owns a win over a Class A tournament team (Corvallis), is back to take another jab at the Devils. And Choteau returns to the state tournament after missing out last season, ending a run of 10 consecutive trips.

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1
Thu 11/8 10 a.m.
1N Choteau 0
2S Roundup 3
2
Thu 11/8 12 p.m.
1W Florence
3S Joliet
3
Thu 11/8 2 p.m.
1S Huntley Project
3N Wolf Point
4
Thu 11/8 4 p.m.
2N Fairfield
2W Deer Lodge
5
Thu 11/8 6 p.m.
Roundup
Winner of 2
6
Thu 11/8 8 p.m.
Winner of 3
Winner of 4
11
Fri 11/9 6 p.m.
Winner of 5
Winner of 6
14
Sat 11/10 1 p.m.
Winner of 11
Winner of 13
7
Fri 11/9 10 a.m.
Choteau
Loser of 2
8
Fri 11/9 12 p.m.
Loser of 3
Loser of 4
9
Fri 11/9 2 p.m.
Winner of 7
Loser of 6
10
Fri 11/9 4 p.m.
Loser of 5
Winner of 8
12
Fri 11/9 8 p.m.
Winner of 9
Winner of 10
13
Sat 11/10 11 a.m.
Loser of 11
Winner of 12
15
Sat 11/10 3 p.m.

Interesting first-round matchup: With three 6-footers, Wolf Point plays its first state-tournament match since 2009 against the defending champion Red Devils.

Fun fact: Roundup was the state power in the early 2000s, winning titles in 2000, 2001 and the winter and fall of 2002 (remember the season switch with girls basketball then?) under Rocky Mountain College coach Laurie Kelly. Well, Roundup alum Alicia Godfrey has the Panthers back at state for the first time since 2005.

Class C

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Class C volleyball

Ennis celebrates its Class C state championship Saturday in Bozeman.

2017 champion: Ennis

The field: Belt (27-2), Bridger (25-2), Ennis (14-1), Hobson-Moore-Judith Gap (26-8), Manhattan Christian (19-4), Plentywood (18-8), Scobey (16-4), Simms (18-4)

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Class C volleyball - Ennis

Ennis celebrates during its victory over the previous defending state champion Belt in an unbeaten semifinal of the 2017 Class C volleyball tournament.

Overview: There seems to be a lot of title contenders again in the field. Of the four returning teams – Belt, Bridger, Ennis and Scobey -- only Scobey didn’t make it to late Friday night at last season’s tournament. Ennis gained its shot at a repeat by emerging from a powerful Western Division, along with division champ Manhattan Christian. Belt, the 2016 title winner was last year’s runner-up, and Bridger was fourth. Belt has reached the state championship match each of the last three seasons and has reached state eight straight years and all seven years under coach Christine Gondeiro.

1
Thu 11/8 10 a.m.
1W Manhattan Christian
2E Plentywood
2
Thu 11/8 12 p.m.
1S Bridger
2N Simms
3
Thu 11/8 2 p.m.
1N Belt
2S HJGM
4
Thu 11/8 4 p.m.
1E Scobey
2W Ennis
5
Thu 11/8 6 p.m.
Winner of 1
Winner of 2
6
Thu 11/8 8 p.m.
Winner of 3
Winner of 4
11
Fri 11/9 6 p.m.
Winner of 5
Winner of 6
14
Sat 11/10 1 p.m.
Winner of 11
Winner of 13
7
Fri 11/9 10 a.m.
Loser of 1
Loser of 2
8
Fri 11/9 12 p.m.
Loser of 3
Loser of 4
9
Fri 11/9 2 p.m.
Winner of 7
Loser of 6
10
Fri 11/9 4 p.m.
Loser of 5
Winner of 8
12
Fri 11/9 8 p.m.
Winner of 9
Winner of 10
13
Sat 11/10 11 a.m.
Loser of 11
Winner of 12
15
Sat 11/10 3 p.m.

Interesting first-round matchup: Scobey vs. Ennis. The Spartans, with eight returning players and looking to improve on last year’s 0-2 showing, draw the defending champs right away after making the 450-mile trek to Bozeman.

Fun fact: Simms has three sets of sisters on the roster: Lissy and Janessa Willekes; twins Madison and Mackenzie Wiegand; and Draylen and Taylee Sawyer.

Email Mike Scherting at mike.scherting@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsSchert

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