For five Hi-Line volleyball teams, the 2012 season comes down to two days in Chinook. And when the dust settles, only two teams will get to keep playing.
Thursday and Friday, Chinook will be the site of the 2012 District 6C East volleyball tournament, where three Northern C Divisional spots will be on the line. And this may be the most hard-to-predict 6C East tourney in quite some time.
The Big Sandy Pioneers (7-5) and North Star Knights (10-3) finished tied atop the regular season standings, but the Pioneers will be the No. 1 seed and have a first-round bye in the 6C East tourney. Big Sandy earned the tiebreaker via a season sweep over the Knights.
Chinook (7-5) is the No. 3 seed and playing at home, the Beeters have a good chance to emerge as district champions. Chester/J-I (6-6) finished fourth in the regular season, while Hays-Lodge Pole (0-10) finished fifth. The tournament is a team short this year after Box Elder cancelled its season back in August.
The opening match of the tournament will pit the Hawks and Thunderbirds against each other Thursday at 11 a.m. C/J-I has been an up-and-down team this season, but can’t be counted out this week. Denerey Haaland leads the C/J-I offense in kills, while Kate Graff, Brittnee Theel and Jimi Sangwin have also been major contributors. HLP struggled to a winless conference season and was swept by the Hawks this fall.
The second match of the opening round should be a good one as Chinook takes on North Star. The two teams split during the regular season, with both matches going five sets. The Knights are a talented bunch, with sisters Lisa and Bettie Carlon leading the way. The dynamic duo can do it all for the Knights, including kill and pass the ball, as well as play defense at the net or in the back row. Melissa Pester has also been a dominant force at the net for the Knights this season.
Meanwhile, the Sugarbeeters have perhaps the most dominant player in the league in 6-2 junior Makhayla Farmer, who leads the team in kills and blocks. Madison McCann, Paige Moxley and Mariah Swank have also been consistent all season long for Chinook.
The winner of the Chinook/North Star matchup will advance to the winner’s bracket semifinal, while the third match of the day will have No. 1 Big Sandy taking on either C/J-I or HLP. The Pioneers have been steady all season long, especially thanks to the superb net play of junior Kaylie Gilman. But with talents like Brooke Leader, Molly Herron and Shayna Gilead, as well as a strong supporting cast, the Pioneers have depth in their rotation that some other teams may not have.
After the three first-round matches, the first elimination match of the day will take place at 4 p.m. on Thursday. The winner’s bracket semifinal match will take place 30 minutes after the loser-out match ends. The tournament resumes with the second loser-out match of the tourney at 12 p.m. on Friday. That will be followed by the third-place match, while the championship tilt is slated for 6 p.m. Friday. There is also a second championship match scheduled for 30 minutes after the first one ends, if it’s needed.
The top two teams from the 6C East will advance to the 2012 Northern C Divisional, which will be held Oct. 1-3 in Belt.