By Tiffany L. Rehbein
It could be like Gettysburg.
Eight Class A teams have three days to decide who will be champion of the state.
The tournament kicks off at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Havre High School gymnasium, and it could be anybody's game.
The teams this year range from veteran to inexperienced at the State A level.
The Hardin Bulldogs, from the Eastern Division, will be making their 15th-straight appearance at the state tournament they have qualified every year since 1986, when Class A volleyball was distinguished as its own class.
The Bulldogs claimed state titles in 1993, 1994 and 1995 and finished second in 1992, 1996, and 1999.
The Havre Blue Ponies, from the Central Division, are almost as experienced, having missed just one appearance at the state tournament in 15 years.
The Blue Ponies, the two-time defending champion this season, also claimed a state title in 1992.
It was the Bulldogs who knocked the Ponies aside, beginning their three-year winning streak in the mid-90s.
Last season, it was the Ponies who caged Hardin to claim the crown.
Lewistown, from the Central Division, won the title in 1997. Last season, they finished third after being defeated by Hardin.
Corvallis and Bigfork, both members of the Western Division, are each in their third year as members of the Class A.
As Class B schools, they were often in contention at state, but Bigfork is making its first state appearance in the Class A ranks.
The Colstrip girls are not unfamiliar to state competition the basketball team captured the state title last fall.
But the Fillies, from the Eastern Division, last qualified for state volleyball in 1998.
Livingston, from the Central Division, has been absent from the state arena since 1991.
However, they were a powerful group back then, having claimed titles in 1989 and 1990 before dropping out of contention.
The Whitefish Bulldogs, from the Western Division, have been a perennial power for years.
The Bulldogs captured the state title in 1986 just one of two Western teams to ever win the title. A key member on that team was Livingston's current head coach Jan Toth.
Columbia Falls was the only other member of the Western Division to win a title, something they did in 1996, ending Hardin's reign at the top.
During the past 11 seasons, the Central Division has dominated, claiming seven of the titles.
This season, while both Whitefish and Hardin had secured regular-season titles in mid-February, the Central Division's first-place seed remained undecided until Havre's last conference game.
It came against Livingston just one week before divisional. The Blue Pony win secured a No. 1 seed at the divisional tournament for Havre.
Both Whitefish and Hardin don undefeated conference records, while Lewistown lost two conference matches this season Havre and Livingston. Havre dropped two Livingston and Belgrade. Livingston lost four twice to Havre, once to Lewistown, once to Belgrade.
Havre and Livingston are on the same side of the bracket.