KALISPELL — For the first time in 13 years, the Butte High Bulldogs will play at the Class AA State volleyball tournament.
The Bulldogs booked a trip to the big dance by knocking off Kalispell Glacier in four sets in a Western AA playoff match Tuesday night. The Bulldogs won 28-26, 28-26, 23-25, 25-16.
Butte High will open the Class AA State tournament Thursday, Nov. 14 at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse on the Montana State Campus in Bozeman.
The last time the Bulldogs played in the State tournament came in November of 2006.
“It was a long time ago,” said Butte High second-year head coach Jeni Hope, a former Butte High volleyball player herself. “It’s a really big deal. I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. I’m thrilled. I just burst into tears at the end.”
Senior Emma Field tallied nine kills to lead Butte High’s balanced attack in the win. Juniors MacKenzie Tutty and Ally Mueller followed with seven and six kills, and sophomore Brooke McGrath finished with five.
The Bulldogs had a strong presence at the net, with Field and junior Hannah Morin-Ferguson each tallying seven blocks.
Hope said the block was the difference in the match for the Bulldogs, who did not hit for a high percentage.
“That was the momentum shift. I think that was what made a difference,” Hope said. “That’s 14 points.”
Hope pointed to the play of Morin-Ferguson in the block game.
“Hannah, she was clobbering it,” the coach said. “She was blocking like she was attacking.”
Senior Trisha Erickson collected 22 digs in the backcourt. Broke McGrath dug up 15.
Other members of the Bulldog team are seniors Cameron LaFond, Grace McGrath, Sydney Doyle and Kira Mortensen; juniors Beth Sampson and Kelly White; and sophomores Katie Keller, Kennadie McMahon, Olivia Quinn, Mollee Conlan and Ashley Olson. Mortensen is out with a season-ending knee injury, but she is still part of the team.
Hope said the Bulldogs left early and took their time getting to Kalispell. They stopped to check out the river in Missoula, and they dipped their feet in Flathead Lake. When they got to Kalispell, they were ready to go.
“We got their super early and they were hyped up in the locker room,” Hope said. “They were just ready to go. They wanted it bad.”
The Bulldogs beat a team that was also determined to go to State.
“It was exciting. Glacier was not going down easy,” Hope said. “They wanted it bad, too.”
The Bulldogs have now won six of their last seven matches. Their lone loss in that stretch came Saturday at Missoula Big Sky. Hope said the Bulldogs got their mojo back with an outstanding practice on Monday.
“It was like a state championship team yesterday,” Hope said. “I think that might have made the difference.”
Hope said the Bulldogs do not know their first-round opponent yet. Butte High, though, will worry about that later anyway.
“We’ll practice light tomorrow, and I’ll give them Friday off for the football game,” Hope said. “We’ll hit it hard on Monday.”
Butte High will take a 13-9 record to the tournament. Glacier closes the season at 10-15.