From the Fringe...
The Armory Gymnasium is old. That's actually a compliment because if the walls inside the Armory could talk, they'd tell you about all the historic things that have taken place inside the grand old gym.
And while the Armory is chalked full of historic sporting moments, another one was added to the list on Friday night.
On Friday night, the Montana State University-Northern volleyball team didn't just beat the Rocky Mountain College Battlin' Bears in four sets, and the Skylights didn't just win the Frontier Conference regular season championship outright. No, there was much more to it than that. On Friday night, Northern made history.
The Frontier title is historic in its own right, simply because the Skylights hadn't won one in volleyball in 22 years. The win over Rocky was historic because it gave MSU-N an undefeated season at home and it capped off one of the most amazing turnarounds in recent history. When Bill Huebsch took over the program in 2009, Northern was coming off back-to-back last-place finishes in the Frontier, yet five seasons later, everything is different. That, turnaround, by its very definition is historic.
However, Friday night was historic because of the crowd too, because of the fan support and because of the emotions inside the old Armory, which has certainly seen that type of atmosphere before, but not for a Frontier Conference volleyball match.
No, the significance of Friday night's match cannot be understated and neither can the atmosphere.
"It was amazing," Northern senior Kelsey Williams said. "We were talking about it before the match, how even in warmups, you look up and the stands are already getting full, and people just kept coming in. The crowd was so amazing tonight and it definitely helped us."
Huebsch noticed it too, and he, and his Skylights certainly were appreciative of the support. It was loud, and it was intense, and the fans, coupled with a great performance by a great team, made it one of those amazing and unforgettable nights the Armory is so well known for over so many decades.
"The crowd tonight was incredible," Huebsch said. "I think the support we've gotten is a credit to these girls and all that they've accomplished. I think, as the success started to pile up, the word got out that this team is special and people, not just volleyball fans, wanted to come out and watch this team play. I think people started to realize that this team is a lot of fun to watch, and while you hope for success every year, seasons like this one don't happen all the time.
"It was just an amazing crowd tonight and I can't thank everybody enough for all the support. It means the world to myself and to this team."
Interestingly though, Friday night's crowd, Friday night's win over RMC and everything that Northern has done this season, and even last, isn't the end. It might have felt like the culmination of something special in the jubilant seconds following Northern's four-set win, but really, it's just the beginning.
Montana State University-Northern freshman Sydney Stolearcius rejoices after the final point of Friday night's Frontier Conference volleyball match between the Skylights and Rocky Mountain College at the Armory Gymnasium. Stolearcius had 22 digs in front of what was the largest crowd to ever see a volleyball match in Havre.
Northern was certainly focused on winning the regular season championship and gaining the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Frontier tournament, but this Skylight team, a senior-laden squad, has much bigger goals, and in no way do the Skylights intend on letting Friday night be the crown jewel in their season.
No, this Northern team wants a postseason championship. These Skylights want to put the Frontier Conference trophy in the trophy case inside the grand old Armory, something they came so agonizingly close to doing a year ago. And even more so, this Northern team, which achieved its first NAIA national ranking in more than a decade, wants to go to the national tournament, and do something while its there.
This Northern team has been focused all season long. This Northern team has been grinding and pushing themselves since August, on some very hot afternoons inside the Armory.
So as great as Friday night was, and it was a night that won't ever be forgotten, this Northern team is hell bent on making sure there are even greater things yet to come.
Friday night was a new chapter in the history book that is the Armory Gymnasium. It was special, it was dramatic it was emotional and it was historic. But these Skylights are nowhere near done making history. Not by a long shot.