BILLINGS — Joliet put an end to the longest winning streak in state volleyball history Thursday night.
With a five-set victory over District 4B rival Huntley Project, the J-Hawks snapped the Red Devils’ streak of 101 consecutive wins.
It was a rematch of last year’s Class B state title match, which Project took in five sets. The J-Hawks prevailed in Thursday’s rematch on their home floor in comeback fashion, winning 25-22 in the fourth frame to force a deciding fifth set, then won 15-12 to close out the match.
The J-Hawks (1-0) won the opening set 25-16, then Project secured the next two by scores of 25-22 and 25-19. Joliet coach Colette Webber said it was her team’s first victory over the Red Devils (1-1) in 14 years.
“The girls are pretty appreciative of every moment they get to play” due to the coronavirus pandemic, Webber said during a phone interview after the match. “One of our seniors, Skyler Wright, said that this could be the only time we get to play them, so we needed to treat it like a championship game, and that’s how we played it.
“It was so intense, and when we won it was like … tears. Everyone was bawling, including me.”
Wright, a senior outside hitter, had 13 kills and 20 digs for Joliet. Fellow senior Makenna Bushman, a middle hitter, had 22 kills and 33 digs. Another senior, setter Merrin Schwend, had 38 assists.
The Red Devils ended last year with their title-match win over Joliet — the team's third state championship in a row and the 12th in program history — for their 100th consecutive victory to break the previous program record of 99 straight wins, achieved from 2003-05. They opened this season with a sweep of Bridger on Aug. 28 to extend the mark to 101.
Project’s last loss prior to Thursday came against Red Lodge in the state championship round at the end of the 2017 season.
“It was a great match,” Red Devils coach Iona Stookey said during a phone interview. “I thought in the end in Game 5 we made more mistakes than them and they beat us.”
“Honestly, I told (the team) that a lot of them didn’t have a whole lot to do with the streak,” Stookey added. “I graduated five seniors. I told them we were bound to get beat and now we’ll get better. I’m not taking anything away from Joliet. They played better than us.”
Junior setter Macee Murphy led the Red Devils with 27 assists and 28 digs, and also had 11 kills and five blocks. Teammate Josie Hasler added 12 kills.
“Iona is such an icon. I’ve been trying to copy her for the last 10 years, and to be able to beat a coach of that caliber is pretty humbling,” Webber said of her Huntley Project counterpart.
“I felt like when we did well with them we were attacking the ball and being smart. Being smart with our tips and also just attacking. They weren’t afraid. And that last set we served really well and weren’t afraid to swing.”