It has been 28 years since Sentinel last won the state title, under the tutelage of head coach Deb Thompson, and they have finally done it again with the current coach Erin Keffler.
The Spartans have gone undefeated all season with a 25-0 win record and have only lost a total of three conference sets. The team focused on winning it all from the very start of the season, with three goals in mind: finish the regular season as conference champions, be undefeated, and to win state. All three were accomplished by the end of the final set against Billings Senior.
With their final regular season victory over the Flathead Bravettes just before Halloween, the team would celebrated their victory on the bus ride home knowing their first goal had just been accomplished––they were first place in the Western Conference, securing their bid to the State Tournament as the number one seed.
On the bye week heading into the tournament, he team did not have it easy as coaching staff Erin Keffler, Colleen Froehlich, Tian Harrington, Deb Thompson, Karen Umbaugh, and Bri O’Learey Bustillos pushed the girls hard.
At the tournament, which ran Nov. 10 and 12 in Bozeman, the Spartans first trounced Billings Skyview, winning easily in three sets, 25-13, 25-15, and 25-18. With their win the players would face off against long time rivals Bozeman Hawks later that evening in a rematch of last year’s championship match. Winning the first set 25-20 the players felt confident of their win.
Yet, going into the second set the Spartans couldn’t get their groove, and at one point were down 17-9, but with hard pressed blocks and kills by Shelby Schweyen and steady serving by Elsa Godwin, the Spartans would go on to win the neck and neck set 30-28.
Even though Bozeman took the third set 25-16, he Spartans fought back hard in the final set winning 25-15, putting them into one of the top spots for the state title.
With their two wins on opening day, the Spartans had only one match on day two against Billings Senior.
After a hard fought three sets, winning 25-18, 26-24, and 25-23, the Spartans earned a trip to the last day of the tournament, putting them one step closer to the coveted state title.
On November 12, the Spartans gathered on the court to face off once again against Billings Senior after their semi-final victory over the Glacier Wolfpack who would finish 3rd overall. The match started off strong for the Spartans winning their first set, 25-14. After dropping the second set 19-25, only the third set lost all season, they battled back to win 25-22, 25-21.
In the final points of the match the Spartans were on their feet in anticipation.
And with a final block by senior middle Tizzy Weida the players stormed the court as cheers echoed in the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse as the team’s final goals of going undefeated and winning the state title were realized.