Havre Daily News Sports Writer
It's been a very successful season for the Chinook volleyball team. The Sugarbeeters have achieved all their preseason goals, save one - to win the state title. If things go as planned, this weekend may just be the Beeters' crowning achievement.
The Beeters come into the Class C state tournament firing on all cylinders after capping a superb season with a 6C district title, as well as a Northern C divisional championship. They have met every challenge put in front of them this season. Next up is the Circle Wildcats, their opponent in the opening round of the state tournament.
Circle is the second-place team from the Eastern C Division and is led by Erin Kniekamp, Mariah Haynie and Stephanie Haynie. Kniekamp led Circle in kills in its two matches against Scobey and Hysham on Saturday, with 19 and six kills, respectively. The Haynie sisters also play a big role in the team's success. Mariah led the team in digs against Scobey with 19 and Hysham with 10. Stephanie is the team's leading blocker, and led the team for both matches with an amazing 19 blocks against Scobey and nine against Hysham.
“Circle is similar to Great Falls Central,” Chinook head coach Doug Hayes said. “They have two 6-foot girls in the middle, and they are very athletic. We are going to have to try and make them move around a lot, kind of like what we did against Central.”
Circle is also going to have its hands full with the balanced attack that the Beeters present. Chinook boasts one the deepest teams in the tournament and will have to rely heavily on that depth in order to be successful.
“With us, it's all about team,” Hayes said. “I tell my girls it's not about one of you; it's about all of you. I am really excited about our depth, from our starters to our bench. I won't hesitate to call on anybody if we are in a tough spot.”
Chinook has been lead all year by Georgia Barber, who had another solid tournament last weekend with 12 digs and three blocks in the championship game on Saturday and five blocks Friday night in the semifinal, both against Great Falls Central. Morgan Obie also had a big weekend with 11 kills Saturday and five aces Friday night. Crystal Roseberry contributed with 50 and 29 assists, respectively. Kassie Dugan and Gen Burkhartsmeyer also played well this past weekend for the Beeters.
“All year it seems like every night it has been a different girl steps up for us,” Hayes said.
Chinook comes into the tournament definitely viewed as one of the favorites, along with teams such as Hysham and Absorkee, but Hayes knows the Beeters will have to be on top of their game if they want to come out on top.
“At this level everyone is good,” Hayes said. “We are going to have to play well and take care of the ball. But, if we play well and play up to our potential, I think we will do very well.”
Even with the high level of competition, the Beeters have to feel good about their chances coming into the tournament. They beat a very highly touted Great Falls Central team twice during the Northern C divisional tournament, and those wins have definitely given Chinook some added momentum coming into this week.
“Our girls saw what we can do when we play together,” Hayes said. “I think if we play well, we can be up there with anyone.”
Chinook is very excited about the opportunity to play in the state tournament, but Hayes made sure to note that his team is in no way overexcited, which he hopes is a good thing.
“The girls are definitely excited about going to state,” Hayes said. “But we have not had a real tense atmosphere this week during practice.”
Chinook's match against Circle will get under way Thursday at 4 p.m. in Bozeman.