By Bill Foley
Butte High’s volleyball team has a date on Saturday night.
Saturday, Nov. 13, that is.
That is the final day of the Class AA State tournament in Bozeman’s Brick Breeden Fieldhouse. The Bulldogs are planning on being there.
“Saturday at state guarantees you a trophy,” Butte High second-year coach Shane Jorgensen said. “That’s what they’re shooting for.”
The Bulldogs begin the season with two non-conference matches Saturday in Billings. Butte High will play at Billings Skyview at 12:30 p.m. The Bulldogs will take on Billings West at 4:30. (Schedule)
Butte High hits the road with a talented, senior-laden roster that gives the school reason for optimism. The Bulldog roster includes 12 seniors, and several of them have already attracted the attention of college coaches. (Roster)
Jorgensen said hit squad also has the right attitude and work ethic on its side.
“They’re going all in this year,” said Jorgensen, who had some successful teams in Anaconda before taking over the Bulldog program last year. “I’ve been able to push these girls harder than I have ever pushed before. I have had some good teams, but nobody has ever outworked these guys.”
Seniors Brooke McGrath and Mollee Conlan are back after taking in Western AA All-Conference honorable mention honors in last year’s COVID-shortened season.
Butte High is also looking for big things from seniors Jordyn Bolton, Kennadie McMahon, Katie Keller, Olivia Quinn, Ashley Olson, Teagan Kennis and Joscelyn Cleveland.
“We’re very senior heavy,” Jorgensen said. “It’s huge for the team. It’s going to give them a chance to show what they can do as a class.”
The Bulldogs are also expecting contributions from juniors Wisdom Hanninen, Emmarie Richards, Camille Kautzman, Laura Rosenleaf, Averie Olsen, Ashlyn Burnett and Madison Seaholm, as well as freshman Jaycee Cleveland.
Those players make up the varsity/junior varsity roster. Butte High’s program also includes 12 players on the sophomore team and 20 players that make up two freshmen teams.
“We had to cut almost 25 players,” Jorgensen said, adding that is a mixed blessing. While the coach said he does not like to have to cut players, he acknowledged that having that many players go out for the team is the sign of a strong program.
“We hope so,” Jorgensen said. “We hope that’s the trend that we started again.”
The coach said his team is more than ready to face an opponent after two weeks of practice.
“We look really good against each other,” Jorgensen said. “Two and a half weeks of doing nothing but games against each other … we’re ready start playing.”
Butte High had to shuffle its schedule after the school board put in a mask mandate in school district buildings. The Bulldogs will play their home games at the Butte Civic Center. Their first home match is Sept. 14 against Missoula Big Sky. Butte’s first Western AA battle is Sept. 10 at Kalispell Flathead.
Jorgensen said the Bulldogs are hoping to have big crowds in the stands after playing last season with limited crowds.
“I don’t think the fans know what they do to charge us up,” Jorgensen said. “It makes a big a difference on the floor.”
More importantly, the Bulldogs want to show their hometown fans the brand of volleyball they will bring to the court every night.
“They had a great summer. We ran a four-on-four league. We were lifting. The girls didn’t miss anything,” Jorgensen said. “They are probably the most dedicated group of girls I’ve ever had.
“They’ve got an ich around town to show everybody how good they are.”