Huntley Project volleyball celebration

The Huntley Project volleyball team celebrates a point during its four-set win over Joliet on Thursday night at Huntley Project High School in Worden.

WORDEN — Josee Krum felt restless throughout Thursday. Not only was the Huntley Project senior looking forward to her Senior Night volleyball match, she was preparing to face Joliet, the team that ended the Red Devils’ state record 101-match winning streak on Sept. 3.

Project shrugged off a first set loss and rolled on its home court, 23-25, 25-21, 25-19, 25-21. The Red Devils (9-1) have won eight straight matches since the five-set defeat at Joliet (7-1).

“I was stressing out in the morning. Then towards the game, I didn’t even think about it. It was more like tunnel vision. All the girls were just like, ‘Let’s go,’ “ Krum said. “We knew once we lost the first one that we had to come back and prove ourselves.

“It was really good and a big confidence booster.”

The J-Hawks suffered a five-set loss to Project in last November in the Class B state title game. The season-opening victory last month provided a jolt, but Joliet was hardly satisfied.

“We just wanted to be able to do it twice,” said Joliet coach Colette Webber. “You can always beat somebody once. To beat them twice is a huge thing.”

The first set Thursday was all Joliet, but the J-Hawks fell behind early and never recovered in each of the final three. Project deployed rotations with several players in different spots than the season opener, and the new looks bothered Joliet, Webber said.

“Huntley’s just always amazing. It was hard to get a ball down tonight. We had a little easier time of that last time,” said Webber, who praised Project coach Iona Stookey. “She is amazing at what she does and how she turns her team around.”

Junior Josie Hasler led the Red Devils in kills (23) and was tied with freshman Kirra Ban for the match’s most digs (25). Project junior Macee Murphy led all players with 40 assists and added 23 digs.

For Joliet, senior Makenna Bushman tallied a match-best 26 kills and added 18 digs. Sophomore ChelSea DuBeau had four aces, and senior Merrin Schwend added 34 assists.

The Red Devils and J-Hawks expect to face each other again if there’s a postseason, which has become a bigger if each day this fall. Montana’s COVID-19 daily case record has been broken throughout the last few weeks, and the number was 429 on Thursday.

Project and Joliet will continue to be cautious and operate on a day-to-day basis. If they get a postseason, the Red Devils feel good about their chances to win their fourth straight state title.

“When we lost the first one, it lit a fire in us, and it was kind of a reality check,” Krum said of the Joliet loss. “We just needed to get better, and it showed our flaws, so then we fixed them.”

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