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Courting trophies with the Cortner trio

By: 
Alastair Baker
News Editor

Volleyball flows through the veins of the Cortner sisters, Red Lodge Seniors Zoe and Portia Cortner and older sibling Bailie, now with Montana Tech in Butte.
Zoe and Portia were on the double-winning State B Championship teams 2015 and 2016 under ex-coach Darcy Stracke. Bailie helped Red Lodge to 2 District trophies, 2 Divisional trophies and four straight State finals from 2009-12 and all this under the direction of ex-coach Dan Roller.
Just where this comradeship with volleyball comes from none of the sisters are sure as “neither parent played sports” despite both parents being very tall they said.
“A couple of aunts we’re pretty driven,” said Bailie but the buck stops there.
“All three of us had a passion for it and kept going with it,” said Zoe.
“Zoe and I always watched Bailie and we’d be playing in the front yard with her and she would slam the balls at us and you learned pretty quickly when to act,” laughed Portia.
Bailie moved on to Montana Tech to major in a BA in business management and played for the college team, The Lady Orediggers, helping them to 15th in the nation.
“We made it to the NAIA Women’s Volleyball Championship for the first time in 26 years,” said Bailie. “The last two years we’ve been super competitive.”
Bailie’s team also had two All Region players, one All American player, and six players named All- Conference. Bailie herself was named First team All-Region and and earned Academic All-Conference in 2015. Last year the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics announced the 2016 Tachikara-NAIA All-American team with Bailie selected Honorable Mention All-American, an honor she also received in 2015.
Now Zoe and Portia are heading in the same direction later next year having been scouted by Brian Solomon, Orediggers head coach, since they were Freshmen.
The world they will enter is a long way from high school.
“My Freshman year of college was the worse year of volleyball but you change things and find motivation and kick into gear. It’s crazy how fast things change and things come to you and, not because you don’t work for them or work for it, it’s just you don’t expect it and it’s shocking, honestly. I never expected a college career I have,” said Bailie.
“My coaches wife asked me, ‘If you could tell your Freshman self one thing what would it be?’ It would be to relax and don’t freak out and work hard and trust in the process,” said Bailie.
“You come from being the best players in high school and you get to college, and not that you’re now going to be one of the best players on the court, but everyone around you is good or taller and stronger and quicker because they’ve been playing in college for 4 years,” said Bailie.
“I think when you grow up in a small school you are expected to play all the school sports. And then especially when you end up being taller than 5’ 6” you really have to play every sport. When you reach the 6-foot mark, you kinda get looked at and after a while it turns in to something you love to do. That what it is with me,” said Bailie. “I didn’t have a lot of people to follow like them, but I did something and it worked out well. Not sure what happened but totally blessed.”
These highs and lows haven’t fallen on deaf ears.
“Having her being there is a huge help,” said Zoe.
“We are not as terrified; we’ve seen Bailie go through it. Seen the worse and the best of her,” said Portia.
“You’re welcome,” replied Bailie in that tongue-in-cheek way siblings share.
“It was a great sacrifice,” said Zoe.
There is also the huge support factor of family.
“Our family has made things way earliest and better and more enjoyable. We have grandparents, 9 million cousins and aunts and uncles. Like, seriously, there is no better feeling. In my senior year everyone would joke, ‘Bailie that whole section is your family.’ The grandparents are excited to be going back to Butte for another four years,” said Bailie.
Bailie believes her sisters will enjoy their experience.
“I have gotten to travel a lot. I went and played in Southern California, Houston, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas. We fly everywhere for volleyball, and I’m really excited for them to experience this and go through security,” said Bailie. “There are so many opportunities, it is ridiculous.”
Bailie has since been hired by the Montana Tech Foundation to help in developing the college through recruiting and fund raising. “Keeping it growing,” she said.
She also coaches incoming freshman to high school, and helps out at Butte High School, a Double A school.
“Volleyball has opened a lot of doors,” Bailie said. “People know the athletes, they remember you. Butte is close knit, everyone knows you, and the kids know you. They love the athletes on campus.”
“I wonder if it has ever happened before. Having three sisters in the sport and all phenomenal athletes and great students. They’re scholastic, role models for younger girl athletes,” said present Red Lodge volleyball coach Sarah Ewald. “It’s a reflection of Red Lodge and Absarokee, in their roots.”
The Red Lodge program has also seen three players successfully play on for Rocky Mountain College, Billings; Natalie Hilderman, Tess Hellerud and Danielle Russell.
“It speaks a lot of about this program, I am blessed to be here with these two for sure,” said Ewald.
Rex Ternan, Red Lodge High School principal, “Montana Tech has been good to us. They come to recruit here, with a lot of success. Our kids mostly end up getting through the program.”
“In my senior year 5 out of 6 starters went on to do college athletics. The amount of girls from high school that have gone to play college sports, it’s honestly crazy,” said Bailie.
“Your volleyball career can never end if you want it to. I’m talking to coaches in Paris, Austria Sweden. There are opportunities to play. Volleyball is huge in Europe. It should be fun,” said Bailie.
For Zoe and Portia the future is bright and exciting but they are naturally cautious of the legacy they follow.
“Our whole lives there's been a heavy weight on our shoulders to own up to what Bailie has accomplished in her life,” said Portia.
“Four years in a row against Huntley then you won the last two years. You guys really accomplished something,” replied Bailie.

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  • Monday, April 22, 2019 - 6:00pm
    Paintbrush Piecers Quilt Guild meeting will be Monday April 22 at 6 p.m. at the Cody Sr. Center. After a short business meeting the program will be a trunk show presented by Betty Hecker, Audrey Clark and Sharon Kaeding from Red Lodge. Meetings are free and guests are welcome. For information contact Marybeth 754-5399
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