Volleyball Fifth-ranked Glacier visits Flathead for crosstown

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When it comes to crosstown volleyball, all bets are off.

Flathead hosts fifth-ranked Glacier tonight in the first crosstown meeting for both schools this season.

“No matter who might have the statistical advantage with more wins throughout the season or whatever, you can kind of throw that out the window when you get to crosstown because both teams are going to play hard,” Glacier coach Christy Harkins said.

Harkins would know. She’s seen her share of them over the years as coach of Wolfpack volleyball since the school’s inaugural season in 2007.

“Crosstown’s always a great environment, a great crowd, a lot of energy — especially when you play that first one in Flathead’s gym,” Harkins said. “It’s such a small space, which is awesome for volleyball, cause you really get that crowd right there on you.”

Flathead coach Nicole Fairclough, in her second year of coaching the Bravettes, said the atmosphere at crosstown games is electric.

“It’s a hard thing to explain because it’s just another volleyball match, but crosstown brings that added level to it so it’s really fun to be in the gym,” she said. “It’s exciting.”

The Bravettes enter with a 7-6 record overall and won their first conference match against Big Sky on Tuesday.

“They were focused on last night, but they were definitely already thinking about crosstown for Thursday,” Fairclough said.

Glacier is 5-6 and this will be its first conference game this season.

It’s not the first meeting of the season for Flathead and Glacier, however. The two met at the Electric City Invitational in Great Falls last week, where Flathead defeated Glacier 22-25, 25-23, 15-13 in championship round play at the tournament. The Bravettes earned a spot in the championship bracket and though they fell in the semifinals, they gained some confidence from that weekend. The only thing missing was being in their home gym.

“The matches we’ve lost, for the most part, have all been really close so a lot of those games are within five points,” Fairclough said. “So it really can go either way. It was crosstown but in Great Falls, not crosstown in Kalispell.”

Last season Glacier was 3-1 in the season series against Flathead. Things started off almost the same as this year, with Flathead winning in Great Falls. Glacier went 2-0 in conference play against the Bravettes on their way to the state tournament.

The Wolfpack has grown from the underdog and into a contender under Harkins’ direction. Things have evened out a bit and that’s what’s contributed to the tight matchups over the past few years, she said.

“The first year we didn’t have seniors at Glacier, we didn’t have tradition, we didn’t have experience,” Harkins said. “It was rough. Flathead was clearly in the lead just confidence-wise and experience-wise and over the years I’ve seen that balance out a little bit and just turn into some really good competitive matches year after year. It took a while, but I think that’s where we have ended up.”

Fairclough has been adding high-pressure drills to practices to prepare the Flathead team for the high-energy atmosphere of a crosstown match, but likes to keep things consistent and not change things up too much, she said.

Harkins is ready for a potentially long, but no doubt, exciting night of crosstown volleyball.

“I think it’ll be a great match,” Harkins said. “It wouldn’t surprise me at all if it went five.”

Class AA Power Poll

Here are the results of the weekly Class AA Volleyball Coaches Poll. The ratings are based upon 5 points for each first-place vote, 4 points for second-place vote, etc. First-places votes as of Sept.10th are in parentheses, followed by the total points.

1. Billings Senior (8) 51

2. Helena Capital (3) 46

3. Helena High 33

4. Missoula Sentinel 18

5. Glacier 10

Also receiving votes, in order: Flathead, Bozeman, Billings West

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