By Tiffany L. Rehbein
Tanja Bruski, a senior at Billings West High School, has signed a national letter of intent to play volleyball at MSU-Northern next fall, head Skylights coach Lisa Handley announced.
Bruski is a 5-foot-11 power hitter who helped lead her team to the Class AA state tournament last weekend at Billings.
"Tanja's hitting capabilities are great, she has all the shots, but it is her determined off-blocker defense that stands Tanja apart from the rest of the pack," Handley said. "She never lets a ball drop."
Bruski was named Most Valuable Player to cap off her senior year, Billings West head coach Beth Tocci said.
She led the team this season in digs (284), kills (395), and kill efficiency (.215).
Bruski is second only to Stacey Conway in all-time kills at West. She has tabulated a career 666 kills during three seasons on varsity.
For two consecutive years, Bruski has been named first team All-Conference and second team All-State. She was recently selected to play in the East-West All-Star game to be played at Butte next weekend.
But it's more than her volleyball ability that attracted Northern to Bruski, it was also her attitude.
"If this tells you anything about her, during her first season on the team, she was voted most inspirational player," Tocci said. "She is a really committed and dedicated kid."
Bruski, who had many offers to play volleyball at other colleges in Montana, chose Northern for several reasons.
"She loves the competitive nature of the game," Tocci said. "She respects Lisa and I think they will complement each other well."
At the close of her senior year, in addition to leading her team in kills and blocks, Bruski had a .904 serving percentage, 31 ace serves, 69 stuff blocks, 84 assists, had a .958 setting efficiency, tabulated 145 points, and had a .876 serve receive mark.
"The great thing was she learned how to play the entire game," Tocci said. "She has played the full rotation for two years now."
Her knowledge of the game was tested this season, when she was moved from her comfortable outside hitter position to a middle hitter.
"That is how we beat Billings Senior to get into the state tournament," Tocci said. There are 13 teams in the AA, and a playoff between West and Senior led to one team entering the tournament.
Bruski has maintained a 3.6 grade point average and was invited to play on the Davis (University) Australian tour last year.
Bruski, who suffered from a stress fracture in her spine her sophomore year, will need to develop her strength to compete well at the college level, Tocci said.
"Her body has taken a lot of pounding," she said. "I think she has the mentality to compete at the college level, but she will have to develop her strength. She is going to need to learn a faster game of volleyball."