By Bruce Sayler
The second game was a bit of a wart, but the rest of the match was smooth sailing for Butte High as it beat Missoula Hellgate in four games behind a larger and loud crowd in Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gym.
The scores of the Thursday night Western AA Conference high school girls’ volleyball match were 25-9, 23-25, 25-10, 25-14.
“We had a couple of shaky moments,” Shane Jorgensen, head coach of the Bulldogs, said. “After that big win in the first game we had a letdown. We had to find out we can’t take things for granted, no matter how big the win or the loss is.
“We’re battling through a couple of injuries, so to win when we don’t everybody at 100 percent is big for us.”
It was Pink Night for the event in a rally against cancer. Butte High players wore pink shirts and hair ribbons and some members of the crowd were also in pink. Bulldog assistant coach Laura Mortensen, a cancer survivor, was given a pink rose by each member of the Butte High team before the first serve.
A kill by Maddie Luedtke broke a 4-all tie and gave the Bulldogs the first-set lead for good. Brityn Stewart toed the service line after Mickenzie McIntyre’s kill widened Butte High’s margin to 12-5. Stewart served six points with Mylee McIntyre scoring two notable kills, Mylee Demarais hitting a kill, Stewart acing a serve and Cadence Graham floating over a dig. McIntyre’s first kill in the spree smacked Jaylee Zander in the face and knocked the Hellgate player to the floor. McIntyre’s other was a diagonal corner-to-corner deep lob that touched inside the borders.
Another McIntyre kill opened a 10-point gap, 19-9, moments later. Jaycee Cleveland served out the set, starting with three aces in four serves to 23-9. A carry call against the Knights brought set point, then Demarais landed a tip to end the set.
Butte High then never led in the second game. Three Bulldog errors staked Hellgate to a 3-0 lead before the Bulldogs caught up on a Demarais kill and two McIntyre aces. The Knights then took the lead for good when a Butte High serve tangled in the net.
Hellgate grew its lead from 9-8 to 16-8 with Donalynn Headswift serving after a Kinzey Clark kill. The six-point serving run included four Butte High miscues. The Bulldogs rallied to within 23-all as the Knights suffered some hitting mistakes. However, a Headswift kill got the Knights to set point, 24-23. A double-hit call against the Bulldogs tied the match score at a game apiece.
Butte High didn’t fall behind in the third set. They broke a 2-all knot on a Luedtke kill and owned an 8-5 edge when Luedtke took over the serve. She served nine straight points. Kills by McIntyre and Stewart highlighted the surge with Luedtke’s own ace, and scores by Cleveland on a block and setter’s dump.
The Bulldogs dominated and reached set point, 24-10, on a Hellgate setting error. A Knight shot that cleared the end line ended the set.
Hellgate competed a little stronger in the fourth game and led 5-3 after a two-hit infraction by Butte High. The Bulldogs gained the lead, 8-7, on a kill by Sophia Gransbery and were ahead the rest of the match. Graham, a freshman, served an eight-point run that spread Butte High’s lead to 23-14 after some back-and-forth play. Graham’s ace, Stewart’s two blocks, a kill by Taylor Drakos and a tip by Luedtke the Knights watched fall among them were key elements in the run. Hellgate errors accounted for the other points.
A Stewart kill tallied match point, 24-14 before a four-hit call against Hellgate finished the match.
Jorgensen said better serving by the Bulldogs might have cured what stress surface for the team in the match.
“Serving was not quite where we needed it,” the coach said. “It took us out of a couple of rallies.”
He liked the defense, though.
“Defense has been our strongest part of our game,” Jorgenson said. “We’re passing well and our serve-receive is probably at the highest it’s been the last few years. When our serve receive is good, the rest of our offense opens up.”
The Bulldogs’ emotion shown has been the best part of Butte High’s recent play he said.
“The girls are smiling,” Jorgenson said. “It makes the game a lot better when the girls are having a good time. That’s the thing I like most about it.”
Butte High will play at Missoula Sentinel on Saturday.
Butte High def. Missoula Sentinel 25-9, 23-25, 25-10, 25-14.
KILLS – Sentinel 23 (Braydie Neil 9, Alex Meservy 4, Moana Massey 4, Donalynn Headswift 3, Kinzey Clark 2, Elly Stokman 1), Butte 42 (Maddie Luedtke 12, Brityn Stewart 10, Mickenzie McIntyre 7, Mylee Demarais 6, Peyton Trabert 3, Jaycee Cleveland 2, Taylor Drakos 1, Sophia Gransbery 1). ASSISTS – Sentinel 17 (Massey 16, Meissner 1), Butte 34 (Cleveland 30, Cadence Graham 2, Mackenzie Hansen 1, Stewart 1). ACES – Sentinel 2 (Stokman 1, Massey 1), Butte 13 (Cleveland 5, McIntyre 3, Graham 2, Luedtke 2, Drakos 2). DIGS – Sentinel 42 (Morgan Meissner 11, Meservy 7, Jaylee Zander 6, Massey 6, Stokman 3, Keira Babbitt 3, Headswift 2, Kailee Pfau 2, Neil 1, Maia Yastko 1), Butte 57 (Cleveland 12, Hansen 11, Drakos 10, Stewart 8, Graham 7, Luedtke 3, Gransbery 3, Trabert 1, McIntyre 1, Trabert 1). BLOCKS – Sentinel 4 (Neil 1, Headswift 1, Stokman 1, Clark 1), Butte 0.