New coach. New team.
That’s the Columbia Falls volleyball squad this season. The Wildkats lost all their returning starters of last year’s state A championship squad to graduation.
They also lost their head coach, Jessy Matthews, who resigned and moved to Missoula to coach the Loyola Sacred Heart team.
But that doesn’t mean the team has no experience. Far from it.
New coach Jolandie Brooks has been an assistant coach for the past four years — two under Matthews and two under former head coach Josie Brown – and knows what it takes to have a successful program. Brooks is a paradeucator at the high school.
“The goal is to take it one game at a time, one practice at a time, one hit at a time,” Brooks said.
The team is led by seniors Tallia Sova and Bridget Barta. Ryley Kehr and Trista Cowan had solid varsity minutes last year. They also have talent in the likes of sophomore Stella Bistodeau, juniors Savvy Ellis and Taylor Jarrett, sophomore Mailee Windauer, and freshmen Hannah Schweikert and Madysen Hoerner.
The Kats opened the season at Frenchtown last weekend at the tip-off tourney. Their first home match is against Libby on Sept. 5.
This year Libby, Ronan, and Browning all join the Northwest A conference. Whitefish promises to be tough, with four returning starters.
Who’s the team to beat?
“All of them,” Brooks said.