It had been a long time since Butte High played volleyball as well as it did on Tuesday, possibly as long as half of a decade, the Bulldogs’ coach said.
Dale Burgman was basking in the victory, a 25-17, 25-21, 25-23 sweep of Eastern AA Conference foe Great Falls High in the Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gym at Butte High School.
“I really think it could’ve been the best we’ve played in possibly five years,” he said. “The best part of it was that everybody, and I mean everybody, contributed. We were a team.”
The performance was appreciated if not expected. Burgman lamented that the Butte High girls had spent the weekend at the Great Falls Invitational tournament struggling to close out opponents and losing some tough matches on mistakes.
“That’s what was different tonight,” he said. “In Great Falls, we found ways to lose close games. So, tonight, one of the best things we did was that when we made a couple of mistakes, we forgot about them and just went on and played through them.”
The balance of the effort showed up in the statistics. No Bulldog notched double figures in kills in the short match, but Abby Dodge had nine against constant defensive attention, and Mikayla McGivern came through with five. Senior setter Erika Spear set 14 assists and Sam Krzan put up five. McKenna Dahlman had three kills and two blocks, and Spear and Hannah Amtmann each fired home two aces.
Amtmann was her usual all-star self at libero with 19 digs, many of them followed by good set-up passes to her team’s setters.
“We had aggressive serving and aggressive hitting tonight,” Burgman said. “Our defense at the net was good and we take Hannah for granted on the back row. We expect her to be perfect every game.”
The Bulldogs simply seemed in tune with Amanda Pickle, Kaity McGruder, Alyssa Bernhardt and Katlyn O’Brien all playing well, too.
“This was a much, much better effort,” Burgman said. “I was enthused with their excitement to be on the court and doing things well.”
Butte High opened with a strong first game and took the lead for good at 3-2 on a Great Falls High hitting error. Serving runs by Spear and Dodge helped the Bulldogs open wider leads behind the hitting of Pickle, Dodge and McGivern. The Bison closed to within 16-14 on a shot by Brooke Perkins before Pickle served a two-point run. Butte High setter Krzan served out the set after taking the line with a 21-17 lead. Dahlman tipped back a Great Falls shot, Bernhardt nailed a kill and game point came on a Great Falls hitting error. Dodge then ended the set with a block assisted by Dahlman.
The second game was tighter. Butte High built a couple of early leads, including 10-4 with Pickle serving. Amtmann’s defensive efforts on the floor as the libero were, again, very important to the second-game victory. The Bison caught up and took two leads, the last at 12-11 on a shot by Sarah Dutro. A service error tied the score and Butte High went ahead on a block by Dahlman and Dodge. Krzan served three points with an ace and kills by O’Brien and Dodge as the Bulldogs widened the gap. The Bison rallied to 20-20 on a block by Molly Schmitz, but could not go ahead. Their hitting error broke the tie and Butte High added a block by McGivern for a 22-20 spread. Set point arrived at 24-21 on a kill by McGruder and Dodge pounded the winning kill.
The third game went down to the end. Great Falls never led, but tied the Bulldogs four times without being able to get in front. The last serious challenge began with a Danielle Devlin kill for the Bison that cut the margin to 23-21. A Great Falls shot then tangled in the net. Devlin spiked another kill and went to toe the line to serve after the side-out and facing match point. She fired an ace and then another tough serve. The volley was good, but the Bison were called for over-the-net on a Bernhardt block and the match ended. Butte High had accomplished the sweep.
The win lifted the Bulldogs’ records to 1-2 in conference and 1-5 for the year. They will be home against Billings Senior on Saturday afternoon. Great Falls High stands 0-1 in the Eastern AA and 2-7 overall.
Butte High def. Great Falls High 25-17, 25-21, 25-23
KILLS — GF 22 (Danielle Devlin 5, Brooke Ortiz 5), Butte 23 (Abby Dodge 9, Mikayla McGivern 5, McKenna Dahlman 3, Amanda Pickle 2, Kaity McGruder 2, Alissa Bernhardt 1, Katlyn O’Brien 1). ASSISTS — GF 19 (Ortiz 11, Devlin 8), Butte 20 (Spear 14, Krzan 5, Hannah Amtmann 1). ACES — GF 8 (Jourdyn Schmidt 3, Devlin 2), Butte 4 (Amtmann 2, Spear 2). DIGS — GF 65 (Schmidt 17, Devlin 13), Butte 60 (Amtmann 19, Pickle 13, Dodge 10, McGregor 5, McGivern 4, Krzan 4, Spear 3, Bernhardt 2). BLOCKS — GF 1 (Sarah Dutro), Butte 7 (McGivern 3, Dahlman 2, Dodge 1, Bernhardt 1).