By Bruce Sayler
The Butte High volleyball team probably had a lot of legitimate causes to blame for its showing in a non-conference loss to Dillon Thursday night.
The Bulldogs fell in four sets — 25-11, 18-25, 25-18, 25-19 — in the match played in the Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gym at Butte High School.
Dillon is a good Class A team, which can be pointed to as a reason for the outcome. Also, the Bulldogs were sick and banged up — playing without senior Amanda Pickle because of an ankle injury, losing setter Sam Krzan to an injury in the fourth game, and having Abby Dodge and Brittney Tierney both playing with illness.
Causes should not necessarily be reasons, seemed to be the message that came through, though. The team and coaches sought to adjust.
“We played 10 times better than Friday and Saturday (against Class AA powers Billings Senior and Billings Skyview),” first-year Butte High head coach Katrina Berg said. “Everybody’s sick and hurt … I really don’t know what to say. We just didn’t have the kids.”
“We didn’t play our game. That’s what we do, though, when we play somebody who isn’t Billings Senior or Billings Skyview. We wind up playing their game.”
So, as luck would have it for the pained Bulldogs, Dillon played its own game pretty well. The Beavers exacted their revenge despite a good defensive effort the home team put forth. Butte High’s only win so far this season was in five sets over Dillon earlier in the year.
“We’d tell (the Bulldogs) what spots are open and they had a hard time going to those spots,” Berg said, looking for more resolution to the problems. “Then that gets in their heads, and they get nervous, and … I just don’t know.”
One of those unraveling stretches occurred in the first game. The teams were locked in an 8-all tie when Nicole Hritsco toed the service line for the Beavers. She rattled off a dozen straight points. Paige Rouse rotated in off the bench to score five of them, one on a hard kill, one on a block and rest on well-placed tips. The Bulldogs hurt themselves in the run with a violation and four hitting errors. Hritsco aced the other two points.
The Beavers reached set point at 24-10 when the Bulldogs were unable to cleanly handle a tough serve by Kyndall Petersen and fumbled it to the floor. Alissa Bernhardt tallied a kill for Butte High before the game ended on another tip by Rouse.
The Bulldogs, though, seemed to reboot between sets and played a good second game. They never trailed in the set; Baylee Leary made it a 1-0 score with a kill to start the way. Butte High had a 5-3 edge minutes later before Keeley Pochervina took over serve. She blistered four aces in a six-point run and the Bulldogs had a 10-4 advantage. Butte High maintained the difference for awhile, then opened a 10-point margin, 21-11, on a Krzan ace. The teams proceeded on to set point reaching it at 24-15 when Dillon was called for a net violation. The Beavers fought off the end of set for five serves before Bernhardt secured for Butte High with a soft kill into the Dillon’s back row.
The third set was well-contested. Dillon gained the lead for good when hot-hitting Kylie Christiansen blasted a kill. Christiansen later smoked four kills in a row as the Beavers opened a 19-13 margin. Another Christiansen kill notched set point at 24-18. A kill by Rouse ended the set.
The Butte High loss of the fourth game, not only meant the loss of the match, but seemed to be a win that escaped. Bethany McMahon’s serving run spurred the Bulldogs to an 11-7 edge. The teams played a pretty even competition most of the rest of the way, except that Dillon got ahead at the end. Brynley Fitzgerald served out the last nine points of the match. She took possession of serve for Dillon with Butte High holding a 19-16 edge. The Bulldogs committed four hitting errors in the last span, including the one that tied the score at 19-all. Another Christiansen kill scored match point at 24-19. Then, Hritsco returned a Butte shot and the volley landed in an open spot on the Bulldog side of the net for the last point.
Pochervina served four aces and Cameron Cassidy boomed eight kills to lead the Butte High offense. Bernhardt, Cassidy and 6-foot-1 freshman Kira Mortensen fenced up two blocks apiece. McMahon and Krzan set nine assists apiece, Pochervina scooped 23 digs and Jenna Maroney came up with 15 digs.
Christiansen finished with 13 kills for Dillon. Bailey Berriochoa put up 31 assists, notched 17 digs and fired four aces. Fitzgerald and Hritsco walled off thee blocks each.
Butte High will play in the Missoula Invitational tournament Thursday and Friday.
Dillon def. Butte High 25-11, 18-25, 25-18, 25-19
KILLS — Dillon 42 (Kylie Christiansen 13, Paige Rouse 9, Brynley Fitzgerald 9, Nicole Hritsco 7, Bailey Berriochoa 2, Halle Stewart 2), Butte High 25 (Cameron Cassidy 8, Abby Dodge 6, Alissa Bernhardt 5, Jenna Maroney 2, Kira Mortensen 2, Baylee Leary 1, Bethany McMahon 1). ASSISTS — Dillon 37 (Berriochoa 31, Stewart 6), Butte High 19 (McMahon 9, Sam Krzan 9, Mortensen 1). ACES — Dillon 9 (Berriochoa 4, Hritsco 2, Petersen 1, Christiansen 1, Fitzgerald 1), Butte High 11 (Keeley Pochervina 4, McMahon 2, Cassidy 2, Krzan 2, Maroney 1). DIGS — Dillon 82 (Berriochoa 17, Maggie Magee 14, Christiansen 13, Fitzgerald 13, Petersen 8, Hritsco 8, Stewart 8, Rouse 1), Butte High 60 (Pochervina 23, Maroney 15, Krzan 10, Dodge 4, McMahon 4, Bernhardt 1, Leary 1, Cassidy 1, Mortensen 1). BLOCKS — Dillon 4 (Fitzgerald 3, Hritsco 3, Rouse 1, Christiansen 1), Butte High 8 (Bernhardt 2, Cassidy 2, Mortensen 2, Dodge 1, McMahon 1).