By Chris Parker
Billings volleyball has had one of the area’s best runs in recent years with four consecutive district titles and six district titles in the past seven years. Each of the last two years has seen Billings earn trips to the Class 1 Final Four finishing third last year.
Gone from that team are two all-state and four total all-conference selections including the leader in every major statistical category.
“With four district titles, two conference titles, and two state runs, the graduation group of seniors has helped create a strong competitive program at Billings. Our girls are always wanting in the gym to get better, as an individual player and as a team,” Billings head coach Brandi Sillavan said. “We will miss the leadership roles that the senior brought to the court during practice and games. They played with high intensity and were.”
Two starters return in senior Liberty Hardie (outside/middle hitter) and junior Emma Datema (outside). Hardie earned honorable mention all-conference honors last year.
Seniors Hanna Verch (setter), Ashlyn Menkel (libero) and Lizzie Edwards (outside hitter) along with junior Melanie Ryan (setter) and sophomore Bella Harter (middle hitter) also return for Billings.
This group will try to navigate both the graduation of the most decorated group in Billings history and Missouri’s expanding matches from a best-of-three to best-of-five.
“We are excited about the change,” Sillavan said. “The girls will get to play a little bit more, since it’s a longer match. This will help prepare athletes for college ball and help build their endurance.”
It will take time for Billings to get new rotations set, but Sillavan still hopes to see her team be a factor in the post-season.
“We still have high expectations for this season. We are looking at staying competitive in our conference and district,” Sillavan said. “Our goal right now is working on new rotations and becoming strong hitters. Over the summer I have seen much improvement, so I am excited about what this year will bring.”
Billings opens the season on Sept. 1 at Pierce City.