Bengals string hits against Bulldogs

Helena High was tall and powerful, and the combination made for a sum of good Tuesday night as the Bengals swept Butte High 25-10, 25-12, 25-18 in a non-conference Class AA high school girls’ volleyball match played in the Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gym.

College prospect Kaitlyn Oliver, a 6-foot-3 senior, plastered 18 kills and posted four blocks to pace the Helena High attack. Support was strong. Mallory Grimsrud nailed nine kills and Bengal setter Dani Norling spread the ball around well.

The 6-1 Grimsrud teamed with Oliver and 6-0 Mackenzie Donnelly for Helena High triple towers at the net.

“They played really well against us,” credited Bulldog head coach Dale Burgman. “Outside of Carlie Haeffner playing pretty consistent, we weren’t getting anything over their double-block.

“What bothered me, though, is that we gave up a lot of runs.  We’d have somebody out of good defensive position and they’d score, then we’d have a bad pass, and so on. It was another thing after another thing after another thing.”

The Bulldogs were limited more than planned in the height department, too. Early diagnosis is that 6-2 sophomore Brianna O’Mara suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) during warmups before last Thursday’s match with Dillon. So, she missed Tuesday’s action and could miss athletics the rest of this school year, if the ACL tear is confirmed. O’Mara will have tests done later this week on the injured knee before ultimate diagnosis is decided, Burgman said.

“That’s a big block we were missing tonight,” the coach said about O’Mara being sidelined with the injury.

Serving runs by Alicia Norling and Oliver vaulted the Bengals ahead 9-4 early in the first game. Oliver also pounded five kills and finessed a scoring tip in the first set. The Bengals got to 24-10, game point, on a Grimsrud kill, then won the game as Alicia Norling smashed a kill.

A Haeffner kill knotted the count at 2-all in the second game and Sammy McGree brought Butte High to 3-all before Helena High hit its way to the lead in the second game for good. Kills by Alicia Norling and Donnelly, and a block by Grimsrud pushed the team in front.

An Oliver serving run late in the set secured the 2-0 match lead. Alicia Norling had a stuff block and a kill in the run, and Grimsrud tipped in what was game point at 24-11. Two serves later, Sarah Bryson ended the game with another well-placed tip.

The Bulldogs played pretty well in the second game and were better in the third, though losing it for the sweep. A Hattie Thatcher serving run late took the team from a 22-14 deficit to 22-18. Rare Bengal errors scored three of the points in the run and the other was tallied by Baylee Thatcher. Jessie Buckley and McGree both clobbered big hits in the match.

Burgman agreed the Bengals were very good Tuesday night, but insisted to that the Bulldogs provided too much help to the opposition.

“We’ve got to quit making those mistakes,” he said. “It’s got to end.”

Butte High will play at Bozeman on Thursday in a return to Eastern AA Conference play.

Helena High def. Butte High 25-10, 25-12, 25-18

Kills – Helena 42 (Kaitlyn Oliver 18, Mallory Grimsrud 9), Butte 17 (Sammy McGree 6, Baylee Thatcher 4, Carlie Haeffner 4, Jessie Buckley 2, Caleigh Norman 1). Assists – Helena 37 (Dani Norling 35), Butte 12 (B. Thatcher 6, McKaul Ori 5, Buckley 1). Aces – Helena 5 (D. Norling 2, Savanah Swanson 2), Butte 1 (Haeffner 1). Digs – Helena 35 (Kerstie Ward 10, Swanson 7), Butte 27 (Hattie Thatcher 10, McGree 6, B.  Thatcher 3, Buckley 3, Ori 2, Norman 2, Haeffner 1). Blocks – Helena 7 (Oliver 4), Butte 5 (Haeffner 3, B. Thatcher 1, Rachel Anderson 1).