Eventually, Butte High’s volleyball players will probably realize how well they played Tuesday night. That realization might take some time, however.
The Bulldogs took the first two games from the high-flying Bozeman Hawks in an Eastern AA match at the Ross J. Richardson Gym. Butte High, though, narrowly missed pulling out the upset, as the Hawks pulled out a 22-25, 20-25, 25-19, 26-24, 15-7 thriller.
“We’re playing better,” said disappointed Butte High coach Dale Burgman. “Right now they don’t realize that because they really wanted to win that game.”
The loss, which came as Butte High wore pink jerseys in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, put a damper on Senior Night. The Bulldogs honored their two seniors — and captains — Carlie Haeffner before the match.
“We had so many chances to win so many games,” Burgman said. “We just couldn’t do it.”
The seniors didn’t go down without a fight. Haeffner tallied 15 kills to go along with 7 and a half blocks to lead an inspired Bulldog squad.
“Without looking at the stats, I bet Carlie had a career night,” Burgman said. “She played an outstanding volleyball match. If she didn’t get a block, she got touches constantly.”
Thatcher, the libero and only Bulldog not wearing pink, collected a team-leading 23 digs while leading a defensive unit that just wouldn’t quit.
The Hawks (14-4 overall, 6-1 in conference), though, wouldn’t quit either. Amy Davis, who looks taller than the 6-foot she is listed on the roster, took over the match at times. She matched Haeffner with 15 kills. She also notched four blocks.
At one point Davis scored five of six Bozeman points with either a spike or a block. That came in a 7-0 run that turned an 8-5 Butte High lead in Game 4 into a 12-8 Bozeman advantage. That was the second big run of the match for the Hawks, who scored the final six points of Game 3 to break a 19-all tie and keep the match alive.
Again, the Bulldogs fought back. Sammy McGree dropped in a point to tie the match at 18, and a Haeffner block tied the match at 24.
A Butte High shot to take the lead, though, went long, and Rachel Astrup put the match away for the Hawks.
Bozeman took advantage of a fortuitous bounce to take the lead for good with a 4-0 run early in the tiebreaker. An ace by Morgan D’Agostino — bounced off the net and found a hole in the Butte High defense — highlighted that run.
Bozeman took control with an 8-0 run to make it 14-5.
On the brink of elimination, Butte High battled back to score two points. They couldn’t get a third.
After a long volley on match point, Davis sent the crowd home with a hard spike.
“She’s really good,” Burgman said of Davis. “They’re setter played really well, too.”
Kennedy Carpenter dished out 52 assists in the victory. She also collected 19 digs. Trae Roderick added 11 kills, while Abby Pilati ended with 18 digs.
Sammy McGree tallied nine kills and 22 digs for the Bulldogs. Baylee Thatcher killed six, while Jessie Buckley killed four. Rachel Anderson and Caileigh Norman also scored a kill for the Bulldogs.
McKaul Ori dished out 17 assists to go along with eight digs. She also served three aces. Baylee Thatcher recorded 12 assists.
Megan Komm also played for Butte High, which plays at the Missoula Invitational this weekend. The Bulldogs head to Dillon for a non-conference match next Tuesday. They then close out the season with road matches against the three Class AA Billings Schools.
Burgman said Tuesday’s loss means the Bulldogs face an uphill battle in the quest to host a playoff match.
Bozeman def. Butte High 22-25, 20-25, 25-19, 26-24, 15-7
KILLS — Bozeman 58 (Amy Davis 15, Trae Roderick 11), Butte 36 (Carlie Haeffner 15, Sammy McGree 9, Baylee Thatcher 6, Jessie Buckley 4, Rachel Anderson 1, Caileigh Norman 1). ASSISTS — Bozeman 53 (Kennedy Carpenter 52), Butte 31 (McKaul Ori 17, B. Thatcher 12, Hattie Thatcher 1, Haeffner 1). BLOCKS — Bozeman 10 (Davis 4, Rachel Astrup 4), Butte 11 (Haeffner 7.5, B. Thatcher 1.5, McGree 1, Anderson 1). ACES — Bozeman 7 (Morgan D’Agostino 2, Carpenter 2), Butte 7 (Ori 3, Buckley 2, B. Thatcher 1, McGree 1). DIGS — Bozeman 107 (Carpenter 19, Abby Pilati 18), Butte 73 (H. Thatcher 23, McGree 22, Buckley 9, Ori 8, B. Thatcher 7, Haeffner 2, Anderson 1).