By Bruce Sayler
Butte High experienced a grueling day Saturday on its own volleyball court.
The Bulldogs won one match and lost the other three in the non-conference jamboree-styled Class AA 2023 East-West Volleyball Crossover. Matches were played in both the Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gym and in Butte High’s old gym. They were in a best-of-three format instead of the regulation best-of-five.
Neither individual statistics nor team win-loss records compiled counted in official ledgers. Butte High played against Great Falls High, Bozeman High, C.M. Russell of Great Falls and Gallatin High of Bozeman in the Richardson gym while Missoula Big Sky met the Great Falls and Bozeman schools in the old gym throughout the day.
“Our first match was good,” Butte High head coach Shane Jorgensen said, referring to the Bulldogs’ 22-25, 25-6, 15-8 win over Great Falls High to begin the day. “But we still insisted on starting in the hole and coming back.”
Butte High’s other matches resulted in losses of 25-12, 25-12 to Bozeman High; 25-23, 25-13 to C.M. Russell and 25-7, 25-10 to a skyscraping Gallatin lineup.
“At times, we competed,” Jorgensen said. “Hopefully, what we went through, today, will prepare us for this coming week’s matches with Sentinel and Hellgate.”
The Bulldogs are scheduled to return to the Western AA Conference slate with the matches against Missoula Hellgate, at home, on Thursday, and then at Missoula Sentinel next Saturday.
The comeback against Great Falls High was promising, but the day ended with the tough loss against a tall and good Gallatin team centered around 6-foot-4 junior Cadence Lundgren, who is already committed to play for Big 12 Conference member Kansas State once her high school career is finished.
“Our lack of height does hurt us at times,” Jorgensen said. “When their shots are jumping a foot over over our block, it is not good for us.”
Butte High has one 5-foot-10 player on varsity, nobody else taller than 5-8. Gallatin showed a 5-4 player, a 5-7 setter and the rest of the roster 5-9 or taller, including three players above the 6-foot mark.
Match capsules follow:
Butte High 2, Great Falls High 1 – The Bulldogs broke a 4-all knot in the tiebreaker set when freshman Cadence Graham’s serve was fumbled and the off-balance return sailed wide of the boundary. Graham aced the next serve and Butte High was able to keep and grow the margin. With Jaycee Cleveland serving, the Bison were guilty of a double-hit, then Butte High’s Payton Trabert tipped in a point. A Great Falls return traveled past the end line and the Bulldogs were at match point. A serve tangled in the net, giving a side-out to the Bison. However, Mylee Demarais of Butte High stole a 50-50 ball from above the net and pounded it home for the win.
The first game of the match was tied 22-all before Great Falls was able to pull it out. Bree MacDonald’s tip put the Bison ahead and Savanah Newsom’s ace serve brought set point. The Bulldogs were called on a net violation and Great Falls High had a 1-0 lead in the match. The ending seemed to inspire Butte High. The Bulldogs roared out to a 19-2 command in the second set with Mickenzie McIntyre, Taylor Drakos and Graham all producing long serving runs. McIntyre fired two aces in hers, and Drakos had one while the Bison had trouble with double-hit violations. Graham’s seven-point run included three kills by Brityn Stewart and two by Maddie Luedtke. A Great Falls hitting error put set point on the board at 24-6 and the set ended on a similar miscue.
Bozeman High 2, Butte High 0 – Emily Burke and Sofia Kimmel served Bozeman to a 22-10 lead in the first game. Kimmel sizzled four aces in her turn and Butte High suffered from some hitting errors. Back-to-back Butte errors caused the set end, going to set point at 24-12 before a double-hit foul capped the set. Morgan Jones was the hot-handed Hawk server in the second game with a nine-point run that opened a 17-4 advantage. A 6-foot-2 sophomore, Nula Anderson, took over at the net for Bozeman and hit set point with a kill for 24-10. Butte High resisted on kills by Luedtke and Cleveland, but Anderson punished a shot to finish the match.
Great Falls C.M. Russell 2, Butte High 0 – C.M. Russell wiped out a 6-3 deficit to Butte High with a seven-point run served by Maryah Winn. Abby Carpenter, a 6-2 junior, blasted three kills in the surge. The Bulldogs rallied to tie 15-all after a McIntyre kill and a CMR mistake. The teams traded points to 23-all before Russell got set point on a Butte High shot that cleared the end line. One that snagged in the net ended the set. The Rustlers led all through the second set after gaining a 1-0 edge on a Bulldog service error. Macie Wheeler, Carpenter and Sophie Madsen led CMR play at the net as it steadily built its lead. Russell led 23-9 after a block by Rilee Mares and got to 24-11, match point, on a Bulldog serving error. Kills by Drakos and Demarois staved off the loss until Madsen nailed a kill for the Great Falls school.
Bozeman Gallatin 2, Butte High 0 – Stewart’s kill gave Butte High the first lead, then Gallatin went ahead behind 5-4 Ashlyn Cataldo’s serving, and the hitting of the 6-4 Lundgren and 6-0 Karsen Breeding. Lundgren’s eight-point serving run expanded the Raptors’ lead to 16-2 as 6-1 Makayla Coleman joined the Gallatin hit parade. Lundgren’s two aces and the spikes of Breeding and Coleman accounted for five of the points in the string. Hadley Holmquist, a 5-11 senior, smashed a kill for set point, 24-7, and 5-11 Emma Hardman finished the set with a kill. The Raptors led all the way in the second game. McIntyre, Drakos, Stewart and Luedtke all fought back with spikes, but the shots found floor space only intermittently though Gallatin’s big block. Taylor Speake, a 5-9, junior served a five-point chain that opened the Raptor lead to 14-6. Consecutive Breeding kills later put the difference at 23-10 and a Bulldog try veered wide of the court to post match point. Speake scored and the day was over.
“We got a little timid, tentative,” Jorgensen said. “I think that, for the first time, we may have been a little intimidated. Our girls had some hard, fast shots coming right at their heads. And, they saw their passes coming right back down at them. I’m proud of them for sticking in there.
“It’d be nice to get just one girl 6-feet tall, though.”