BOZEMAN – The start to No. 900 was much quicker than the finish to No. 800.
A few hours after reaching her 800th career win at Huntley Project, head coach Iona Stookey picked up No. 801 as the Red Devils breezed past Fairfield 25-16, 25-15, 25-10 in the second round Thursday night at the Class B state volleyball tournament.
The defending champions, who have won 65 in a row dating to 2017, will play Florence in the unbeaten semifinal at 6 p.m. Friday. It is a rematch from last year’s state title match.
“They have great players and we have great players,” Stookey said of the Falcons. “We have to show up and be ready to play. I hope it’s a great match.”
Huntley Project needed just 49 minutes to advance.
“We know we have to be humble and know what we’re going to do,” junior Alana Graves said of the Red Devils carrying the large target on their uniform backs. “That’s just being smart when we’re playing. Knowing where to put the ball.”
With Addy Hultgren quarterbacking the offense with 36 assists, Graves finished with 16 kills. Mollee Krum and Emily Poole each had 12. Poole also had six digs and four aces.
Earlier in the day, the Red Devils lost the opening set to Wolf Point, their first set loss to a Class B team this season. Their only other set loss was to Class A Belgrade in a 3-1 win.
“That looked more like how we play,” Stookey said of the Fairfield match. “Our passing was better and our serving was better.”
Fairfield managed just 12 kills, seven by Kyler Bake.
“Our defense is really good,” Graves said. “We just get up a lot of balls that people usually put down. When I’m on the bench, I’ll be watching our defense and an arm will come out and the ball will pop up.”
Maggie Taylor had 13 digs for Huntley Project. Chesney Rogers had nine blocks for Fairfield.
Florence 3, Roundup 0
Last year, Florence lost its first match of the tournament and had to take the pressure-packed long road to the championship match.
This year, the Falcons are following a much shorter path.
A runner-up a year ago, Florence advanced to Friday’s unbeaten semifinal with a quick 25-19, 25-9, 25-12 over Roundup.
The Falcons will play Huntley Project at 6 p.m. Friday.
“It’s a lot nicer,” Florence junior Sarah Hopcroft said of taking the more direct route. “We wanted to make sure we won our first match today so we didn’t have to get on that back road again. Last year that route we took wasn’t easy.”
The Falcons just needed 55 minutes to defeat Roundup. Hopcroft finished with 16 kills and 15 digs. She also had five aces, all three match highs. Halle Christopherson had 31 assists.
“We’re playing really well as a team right now,” Hopcroft said.
Chloe Cota had nine kills and 10 digs for the Panthers and Brennan Larson had 12 digs. Celsa Castro added eight assists and 10 digs.
Huntley Project 3, Wolf Point 1
The tears came before the words.
“I don’t know what to say,” said an emotional Iona Stookey, the longtime coach for Huntley Project. She clapped her hands together once while leaning against the bleachers, trying to process the milestone.
The Red Devils overcame some first-set troubles to defeat Wolf Point in the first round 23-25, 25-9, 25-12, 25-4.
It was Stookey’s 800th as head coach of the Red Devils. She is the only Montana high school volleyball coach to reach 800 wins.
“That’s a lot of wins,” said Stookey, slowly finding her words. “And there are a lot of great memories in those wins.”
Stookey actually surpassed 800 career wins earlier. Prior to landing the job at Project she was the head coach at Shepherd for three seasons, but did not have those won-loss records.
Emily Poole led the defending state champions with a double-double of 17 kills and 15 digs. Alana Graves added 13 kills, and Mollee Krum had 11 kills and four blocks. Addy Hultgren handed out 42 assists. Sara Sumner, nursing a bruised hip, had a team-high three aces.
Imani Bighorn had six kills and four blocks for Wolf Point. Lindsay Netzger had 17 assists.
Roundup 3, Choteau 0
Trailing by 10 in the third set, there was no panic among the Roundup players.
They’ve played tough teams all season long and survived the Southern B, Class B’s toughest divisional just a week ago.
“Playing in the Southern B helps us,” said senior Celsa Castro. “By going against great teams, it only makes us better.”
The Panthers climbed back into contention and finished off the sweep of previously unbeaten Choteau 26-24, 25-16, 25-21.
It was Roundup’s first state tournament win since 2004 when the Panthers took third place. They also qualified in 2005 but lost twice.
Meaghan Eiselien led Roundup with 13 kills and 2.5 blocks. Blythe Sealey had 21 assists and 15 digs.
“We have been coming together as a team,” said Castro. “We have a saying, ‘It’s about US.’ It’s not just about one person. It’s about the whole team.”
Nikole Krone had 10 kills and five blocks for the Bulldogs.
Of Roundup’s 10 losses this season, five have been to Joliet and four to Huntley Project. Both are also at the state tournament.
Florence 3, Joliet 0
Joliet has no seniors, and that youthfulness showed at inopportune times.
“That first match, we were a little nervous,” said J-Hawks coach Colette Webber. “We had too many errors. After that, I thought we battled pretty well with them.”
The Falcons, last year’s Class B runner-up, fought off Joliet 25-22, 26-24, 25-21.
Sarah Hopcroft led Florence with 16 kills and 21 digs. Halle Christopherson dished out 36 assists. Shannon Byrne had 25 digs and Sarah Berard 21.
“We made some errors in bad points of the match,” Webber said. “And against a team like Florence-Carlton you can’t do that.”
Makenna Bushman had 14 kills and 11 digs for Joliet, and Skylar Wright had 19 digs. Shayla Webber added eight kills and 17 assists, and Joelle Luoma had eight kills and 10 digs.
Fairfield 3, Deer Lodge 0
Controlling the net, Fairfield swept Deer Lodge 25-15, 25-18, 25-17.
The Eagles had 32 blocks, including 15 by Kyler Bake. Kenna Pitcher had six kills and Bake had five. Chesney Rogers had a match-high 23 digs for the winners.
Sophia Burton led Deer Lodge with seven kills. Kamryn Scully had 14 assists.