Havre Daily News Sports Writer
Sometimes dreams really do come true. The Chinook volleyball team's dream of winning a state championship became a reality on Saturday night when the Sugarbeeters defeated Hysham in a dramatic come-from-behind victory to capture the school's first state championship in volleyball at the Class C state tournament in Bozeman.
Facing a 2-0 deficit in the championship match, the Beeters rallied to win three straight games and clinch the title with a five-game victory by scores of 25-27, 22-25, 25-21, 25-18 and 15-12.
The win capped off a spectacular season for the Beeters, in which they captured the District 6C and the Northern C divisional titles, ended up 29-2 on the season, and defeated Circle, Absarokee, Great Falls Central and Hysham en route to the championship.
“It hasn't quite hit me yet,” Chinook senior Georgia Barber said. “I kind of need to pinch myself. It's just an amazing feeling to know we actually did it.”
For a moment in the championship match, it looked as though the Beeters' dreams were slipping away.
Hysham, which would have had to beat Chinook twice to capture the title, jumped out to a 2-0 lead, and a do-or-die final match appeared imminent.
“The first two games we were thinking way too much,” Chinook head coach Doug Hayes said. “All of a sudden that ‘if necessary' match was starting to look like a reality and we didn't want to have to go there.”
Down two games, it would seem like a logical time to start pointing fingers and doubting each other. However, this is a team that defies logic, and the Beeters passed with flying colors what ended up being their final test of the year. The Beeters won the third and fourth games to force a fifth game, then scored a 15-12 victory to seal the championship.
“I can't say enough about these girls,” Hayes said. “All year we talked about what we could do together, and it is amazing to see what we accomplished.”
Chinook got to the championship match after it defeated the Great Falls Central Mustangs for the third time in a week. The two teams had met in the semifinal and championship matches of the Northern C divisional tournament.
The outcome of their third meeting was strikingly similar to the first two, as the Beeters swept the Mustangs 25-13, 25-22 and 25-17.
The Beeters were led by Barber with 11 kills, and Morgan Obie with 14 digs. Kassie Dugan also had a strong effort, with five blocks. Carolyn Geschwill had 12 kills in a losing effort, and Katherine Geschwill contributed with 10 digs and four blocks for the Mustangs.
Chinook then moved on to play a scrappy Hysham team, which had lost its first match of the tournament and fought its way through the losers' bracket to the championship match.
“I have a lot of respect for Hysham,” Hayes said. “They fought hard and made it all the way to the championship match.”
Hysham came out in that match with nothing to lose and they played like it, as a tight Chinook team fell behind early.
“Hysham came out and was very loose,” Hayes said. “They made very few mistakes.”
However, Hysham couldn't hold on, and eventually the Beeters wore them out in a war of attrition.
“I just reminded the girls to relax and have fun,” Hayes said. “Even before the state title match, I told them just to relax, have fun and play. After all, it is a game and it should be fun.”
Chinook was led in the championship match by Erin Eslick with 15 kills. Barber added seven blocks, and Crystal Roseberry had a solid outing with 38 assists. Hysham was led by Brooke Zent, who had an amazing match with 28 kills, 13 blocks and three aces.
“Georgia had a solid night blocking. Kassie Dugan was old reliable for us. Morgan Obie hit the ball hard as usual, and Crystal Roseberry is the quarterback of our team. And I just can't say enough about her,” Hayes said. “With us, though, it's not one or two girls, it's everyone. We have stressed team all year long, and someone always rises to the occasion for us.”
Chinook, which has never finished better than third in the state tournament, brought home the title in their inaugural season in Class C after failing to qualify for the Class B state tournament last season.
“We were disappointed last year when we didn't make it to state,” Hayes said. “State was definitely a goal this year. We knew coming into this season, we had a good chance. We just focused all season on getting better every day.”
As for the seniors, they get to experience something few high school athletes ever do - winning a state title in their final game and going out on top.
“It's been really awesome playing with each other,” Barber said. “We all had the same goals, and even though we have had some ups and downs, it paid off in the end.”
Hayes is grateful for the seniors and everything they have brought to Chinook volleyball over the past four years.
“I have been working with these girls since they were in seventh grade,” Hayes said. “I will always have a special place in my heart for these girls. They are like family, and I love the legacy they are leaving behind.
“They have been dreaming of this moment since seventh grade,” Hayes said. “And it was a great moment when that dream came true.”
Chinook def Hysham
25-27, 22-25, 25-21, 25-18, 15-12
Chinook - Kills: 58 (Erin Eslick 15). Aces: 12 (Morgan Obie 6). Assists: 44 (Crystal Roseberry 38). Blocks: 20 (Georgia Barber 7). Digs: 76 (Roseberry 17).
Hysham - Kills: 47 (Brooke Zent 28). Aces: 4 (Zent 3). Assists: 32 (Darcie Cunningham 30). Blocks: 20 (Zent 13). Digs: 56 (Breann Lytle 11, Nicole Ickes 11).
Chinook def. Great Falls Central
25-13, 25-22, 25-17
Chinook - Kills: 40 (Georgia Barber 11). Aces: 6 (Erin Eslick 2). Assists: 37 (Crystal Roseberry 32). Blocks: 11 (Kassie Dugan 5). Digs: 51 (Morgan Obie 14).
Great Falls Central - Kills: 18 (Carolyn Geschwill 12). Aces: 2 (Rae Ann Heavy Runner 1, Jessie Aguila 1). Assists: 18 (Heavy Runner 18). Blocks: 8 (Kathleen Geschwill 4). Digs: 60 (K. Geschwill 20).