Some work is needed, which would be expected a week into volleyball practice for Butte High School. Just as obvious in Friday’s scrimmage at the Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gym was a pretty well-balanced roster.
A split-squad game ended in a 25-18 result as a Baylee Thatcher kill was sandwiched between two opposition hitting errors to tally the three points of the set. Good net play by Caleigh Norman, 6-foot-3 junior Brianna O’Mara and by Heather Blastek spiced the split-squad encounter.
The Purple-and-White varsity-jayvee set-to followed the varsity prevailed, but trailed much of games in 25-21 and 15-12 deciders.
Consequently, this year’s promise carries depth.
The girls are a lot better at picking each other up this year,” head coach Dale Burgman analyzed. “We have a more mature team.
He liked the composure shown.
“They’re pretty smart,” he said. “There were not a lot of dumb mistakes with people being out of position.”
In fact, a moment of improvisation brought on by a substitution error really impressed the coach.
“(Hitter) Brittany Plum set for four points when a mistake had both of our setters on the bench,” Burgman said with a smile.
Plum, a 5-8 junior, played well at the net, too, with several blocks.
“We didn’t keep stats for this, but I’d say Jessie Buckley had the most kills, with Brianna O’Mara a close second,” Burgman said. “Sammy McGree hit and played really well, too.”
Buckley and McGree are seniors and varsity returnees. O’Mara missed most of last season and the rest of the school year’s sports after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and undergoing the necessary surgery to repair it.
The 25-21 game saw the jayvees leading 15-10 after a Plum block and a series of three varsity hitting errors. The varsity caught up at 16-all on a junior varsity hit into the net. The teams played even ball until the varsity took the lead for good at 21-20 on a McGree kill.
A kill by Buckley brought on game point at 24-20 and then, after Brianna Collins answered for the jayvees, Buckley killed the game-ending shot.
The junior varsity held a 4-1 edge in the last game after a Blastek block. A Norman kill squared the count at 4-all and the game remained close for the next several serves.
Thatcher then served a run that included kills by Megan Komm and O’Mara, and a Komm stuff to open a 10-6 varsity advantage. Another Blastek block later cut the difference to 13-12 before a bad pass cost the jayvees and put them on the brink at game point. An O’Mara block finished them off.
“I thought our setters, McKaul Ori and Baylee Thatcher, both played well at the net and distributed the ball well,” Burgman said. “In just running the show, they did well.
“Caleigh Norman, playing on the strong side, hit well. She had been playing in the middle the past two years.”
Norman, a 5-11 junior, brought varsity experience from last year.
Burgman also touted the play of junior varsity libero Amanda Spear, a 5-2 junior.
“We hammered four straight shots at her in one sequence and she was fearless and handled them,” the coach said.
Thatcher, O’Mara, Buckley, McGree, senior Rachel Anderson, 4-11 senior libero Haley Henderson, Ori, Norman and Komm saw action for the varsity. The jayvees, coached by Brianna Barsness, Burgman’s daughter, put Hannah Amtmann, Plum, Bethany McLean, Alli Metz, Collins, Blastek, Spear, Kori Reilly and Mami Scherman on the floor.
The Bulldogs’ first matches are two weekends away, Sept. 6-7 Eastern AA Conference contests at perennially state contending programs Billings Senior and Billings Skyview.
“Texas and Penn State must have already been booked for that weekend,” Burgman mused.
Butte High’s first home match is slated for Sept. 21 versus Billings West.