It was the type of volleyball match only a crosstown rivalry can offer.
In front of a loud and spirited crowd, Flathead took a five-set thriller on its home court, winning 23-25, 25-18, 25-15, 18-25, 15-9. It was a second straight, hotly contested win for the Bravettes over the Wolfpack after their victory last week in Great Falls.
Fifth-ranked Glacier (5-7 overall, 0-1 Western AA) had the upper hand in the first set. After early mistakes by both squads, the Wolfpack established itself at the net. Senior Kali Gulick made several big blocks and junior Aubrie Rademacher’s attack had the Bravettes (8-6, 2-0) searching for answers.
“It’s common for us to start our first game that slowly, so we’ve actually had a lot of practice this season so far,” Flathead coach Nicole Fairclough said.
“It doesn’t matter what just happened, you have to go out and get a fresh start.”
They found those answers in the second set, with senior Taylor Henley leading the charge.
Flathead was down early in the set, but Henley made three consecutive kills to shift the momentum back to the home side. Her dominance at the net forced Glacier to call a timeout down 16-13, and the Bravettes ran away with the set.
Henley finished the match with a team-high 16 kills and eight blocks.
The third set was competitive early, until a massive spike by junior Julia Burden kick-started a 15-3 run for Flathead. The home side was in control of the match and a four-set win seemed inevitable.
But Glacier found its rhythm again in the fourth set. Gulick provided the fuel early on, and Flathead suddenly struggled to control the Wolfpack’s serves.
Quiet tension filled the gym for the fifth set, and Flathead went down 2-0 early. But the home crowd roared to life as the Bravettes rattled off seven straight points to take a lead they would not relinquish.
“When we go out there confidently and take swings at the net it’s hard to stop us, so it’s good to see them switch back to that mentality in the fifth,” Fairclough said.
Though the Wolfpack came up just short, several players turned out impressive performances. Gulick had five of the team’s six blocks, and Rademacher had a team-high 13 kills. Several of her attacks in the fourth set were critical in pushing the game to the brink.
For Flathead, Madde Boles had 15 digs and had multiple impressive kills from the left side of the court. Senior Sierra Wilhelm led Flathead’s attack, collecting a team-high four aces and 40 assists.
The Bravettes already eclipsed their Western AA win total from last season, when they won just one match. Fairclough called it a “huge turning point” for her squad.
As for losing the first set once again, Fairclough is not concerned.
“It seems to work for us to lose the first game and then win the match. I guess it’s tradition,” Fairclough said.
Flathead def. Glacier
23-25, 25-18, 25-15, 18-25, 15-9
Kills – Flathead 51 (Taylor Henley 16), Glacier 42 (Aubrie Rademacher 13). Blocks – Flathead 16 (Henley 8), Glacier 6 (Kali Gulick 5). Assists – Flathead 40 (Sierra Wilhelm 40), Glacier 38 (Kaylee Fritz 38). Digs – Flathead 58 (Madde Boles 15), Glacier 56 (Kacey Hill 19). Aces – Flathead 9 (Wilhelm 4), Glacier 9 (Fritz 2, Gulick 2, Sidney Gulick 2).