BILLINGS - As all-star volleyball makes its return to Montana next June, the Midland Roundtable feels like its plan will propel the showcase for years to come, something other high school volleyball classics have struggled to do.
"Before, we tried to slip it in between (high school) volleyball and basketball seasons," said longtime high school and Rocky Mountain College head coach Laurie Kelly, who's spearheading the new all-star event. "And I feel like after the state tournament, everybody is kind of done with volleyball and there's just not time to fit it in."
Kelly and Midland Roundtable members who met for a Monday luncheon at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center believe pushing the classic to a June Saturday in conjunction with the Montana-Wyoming basketball series will give selected players a chance to plan for the event rather than compete with the start of high school's winter sports season.
"Now that we're having it June 18, the players will know who is picked and when they have to report," Kelly said. "We're picking 10 from the East and 10 from the West. It doesn't matter what class, we're just going to try to pick the best 20 players, preferably ones that are going to go on and play (college) volleyball."
Kelly said she'll rely on college and high school coaches from across Montana to submit player nominations, along with statewide referees who routinely see athletes play.
"Our coaches are (Rocky Mountain College head coach) Yang Yang from the East and (Maureen) Moe Boyle from Carroll College. We asked if she would head the West side and she was very excited that we picked her," Kelly said.
Traditionally played the second weekend of June, the Roundtable's new all-star weekend will be June 17-18 to accommodate Wyoming athletes who may have a conflict with the state's East-West Shrine Football Game.
The basketball series will open in Sheridan, Wyoming, on June 17 then will shift to Lockwood High School on Saturday. Montana's volleyball classic is scheduled for 3 p.m. June 18 with girls basketball to follow at 5:30 p.m. before a 7:30 tip for the boys all-stars.
The Roundtable is a group of Billings sports enthusiasts eager to promote prep and collegiate athletics in the Montana, already presenting the annual Montana-Wyoming basketball series, Top 10 Track and Field Meet in Billings and Athlete of the Year selections each May in the Magic City.
Roundtable president Mike Noland on Monday also introduced Michael Bazemore, new athletic director at Montana State University Billings and Jim Klemann, newly hired in the same position at Rocky Mountain College who presented their visions for each athletic department.