HELENA -- A one-game playoff is always nerve racking and for a time Thursday night, that proved to be true for Helena High against Kalispell Flathead.
The two teams met last Saturday in the final match of the regular season and in the rematch, the Bengals found themselves on the ropes early, trailing 22-18 in the first set.
Yet, Helena High wasn't the No. 2 team in Class AA volleyball most of the season for nothing and thanks to a run sparked by Elizabeth Heuiser, the Bengals notched a come-from-behind win, 29-27 in the first set, then cruised to a sweep by winning the second and third sets, 25-17 and 25-14.
"Flathead played really well in that first set," Helena High head coach Lindsey Day said. "We had a hard time putting the ball away. But I was pleased that the girls relaxed and played to win and didn't get tight there at the end."
Some key points from Heuiser certainly helped ease the tension. However, it took a different approach to put her kills home, opting for a few softer shots, which paid off in a big way as a kill tied things up at 24-24, erasing a four-point Kalispell lead.
"(Elizabeth) does a nice job of doing that for us," Day said. "When we need a big kill and need to put the ball away, she finds a way. She's just a really smart player. She finds holes and is a really smart offensive player."
Heuiser scored another kill and an ace to help Helena keep take the lead, but it would take two Abby Marcille kills and a hitting error from Flathead for the Bengals to win 29-27.
"It was kind of stressful for a little bit," Heuiser said. "But we found our composure and we stayed calm to finish off the set."
After getting the 1-0 lead, the Bengals never looked back. A kill from Sarah Fisher helped them build a 9-3 lead in the second that eventually ballooned to 10, before Helena won 25-17.
In the third, the home team jumped out to an eight-point lead and eventually wrapped up its state title berth on a clinching point from Marcille.
"It feels good going back to state," Heuiser said. "We are excited. We feel pretty good going in. We just need to stayed focused and make sure we play our best."
Heuiser stuffed that stat sheet for Helena High inside the Jungle, finishing with 13 kills, three aces and nine digs. Marcille was also productive with 10 kills and not be overlooked, Emily Feller had 37 assists.
Julia Burden led the way for the Braves with 10 kills. She also managed two blocks.
Second-ranked Helena High will join top-ranked Helena Capital at the Class AA state tournament which starts next Thursday in Bozeman.