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Longhorns no longer underdogs at state


Last updated 11/11/2020 at 9:50am

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Fort Benton's Maci Molinario sets a pass during a Northern C tournament match last week in Fort Benton. The Longhorns are off to the Class C state tournament, whichs runs Thursday through Saturday in Malta. Fort Benton takes on Melstone in the first round.

A year ago, Fort Benton went to the Class C state volleyball tournament as an underdog, and a team that hadn't been to state in quite some time. Fast forward one year, and that's not the case any longer.

This week in Malta, Fort Benton will go into the 2020 Class C state tournament as one of the top teams, a possible state title contender and a team surely hoping to bring a home a trophy.

Of course, the road to all those things won't be easy, and perhaps the top two teams in the state are on the same side of the draw in the Longhorns and Western C champions Manhattan Christian. Fort Benton opens the tournament against Southern C runner-up Melstone, while Manhattan Christian plays Fairview. If both teams win, they will meet in the semifinals Thursday night. In a non-conference match earlier this fall, Manhattan Christian bested the Longhorns, so Fort Benton looks to get another shot at the Tigers.

The other half of the draw features Southern C champion Bridger, another top team squaring off against Northern C runner-up Simms, while Plentywood, the winner of the Eastern C, takes on Charlo in the final first-round match Thursday.

The tournament will continue with semifinals Thursday evening, while loser-out matches and the unbeaten semifinal will be held Friday. The fourth-place matches concludes Friday's action, while the third-place match is set for Saturday morning, and the state title match, and an ifnecessary match will be played Friday night.

The state tournament is normally held in Bozeman, as an All-Class event, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced that event to be canceled, and state tournaments in A, B and C were moved to separate sites.

Fort Benton, though, doesn't care where it plays. The Longhorns did roll through the District 7C and Northern C undefeated, and with a veteran group, led by returning starters Abby Clark, Aspen Geise, Maci Molinario and Ashlee Wang, along with talented standouts like Emerson Giese and Samantha Villeaux to name a few, the Longhorns have been poised to make the most out of a return trip to state, no matter where it's played.

And now, that opportunity is upon Fort Benton. The Longhorns start the state tourney against Melstone Thursday at 10 a.m. The tournament runs through Saturday night in Malta.


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