Having a crosstown rival always makes things interesting. But in the case of the Helena High volleyball team, seeing the success of Helena Capital can only serve as motivation as the Bengals get set to embark on their 2019 season.
“Capital has a great program and we have a great rivalry,” Helena High head coach Lindsey Day said. “Rebecca (Cleveland) and I get along well and we have a lot of fun with it. Capital has a great team but we are just focusing on ourselves and doing what we can to play our best volleyball at the end of the year.”
While the Bengals didn’t have quite the success of their crosstown rival, which won the Class AA state title in 2018, Helena High did reach the Class AA state tournament in Bozeman and Day said that experience will be valuable heading into a new campaign.
“We had a great season last year,” Day said. “We had a lot of success during the year and we had a good seed going into state so we have some returners that have some state-(tournament) experience.”
The Bengals will be led into 2019 by a group of four-seniors that includes 5-foot-9 setter and defensive specialist Emily Feller, who was named First-Team All-Western AA last season as well as First-Team All-State. She will be joined on the varsity roster by fellow seniors Haydin Henschel, Abby Marcille and Caroline Bullock.
“Emily Feller is the returning setter that I have coming back,” Day said. “I also have Haydin Henschel who is really scrappy in the backcourt as well as Brooke Ark.”
Ark is part of a strong junior class that also features Elizabeth Heuiser, a 6-foot-1 middle blocker that will be a top hitter and all-around net presence for the Bengals, along with fellow juniors Esther Kemper, Dani Steinmetz, Maddie McNeil and Alyssa Koening, who should each contribute.
“Elizabeth is our strongest front-row hitter this year,” Day said. “She is tall and she will be my middle. Abby Marcille is also a senior that will be returning as well.”
Helena High may not have advanced as far as its crosstown rivals in 2018, but the Bengals did hand the Bruins one of their two losses last season, as they swept the eventual state champions 3-0.
Capital got its revenge, winning the next two matches played between the two schools before going on to capture the Class AA crown. But in the Bruins quest to repeat, the Bengals are just one team that hopes to stand in the way.
“I really don’t know what to expect this year,” Day said. “I know what some of the teams have lost in terms of seniors going into this season. But Capital is strong, Hellgate is going to be strong in our conference, I just don’t know what other teams have coming, but more importantly, we are trying to focus on us and playing the best volleyball we can.”
Helena High will open the season Friday in Billings. The Bengals will take on Billings Senior at 1:30 p.m. followed by Billings West at 4:30 p.m. The home opener will be Sept. 7 vs Butte.