The volleyball scene could’ve been described as raucous at the Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gym in Butte High School Tuesday night.
The noise from the student sections of the respective schools competing might have even reached Jim Patrick decibels as Butte High outscrapped Missoula Sentinel in a non-conference Class AA volleyball match, the Bulldogs’ first contest on their home court this season. The scores were 25-19, 25-16, 14-25, 26-24.
“It was better than last weekend,” Butte High head coach Dale Burgman said. “I was pleased. There were a lot of things we did well.”
Serving was the Bulldogs’ strongpoint, the coach said.
“Our serving was aggressive all night long,” he said. “Hannah (Amtmann), Heather (Blastek), McKaul (Ori) and Bethany (McLean), especially, right there at the end, all did good jobs of that. Kudos to them.”
The hitting was a high point as Butte High executed 25 kills, about twice as many as the squad had been averaging per match this young season. Caleigh Norman nailed nine to lead the effort.
“Caleigh, Heather and Brittney (Plum) all hit the ball well,” Burgman said.
Burgman had a lot going on Tuesday besides coaching the Bulldogs to this victory. The night was dedicated to Jim Patrick, a lifelong coach who had assisted in the program until his death last March. Patrick spent more than 60 years coaching various sports in Butte, the Butte High freshman volleyball players of last season being his last pupils. He was remembered as being gruff, even harsh, but caring very much about the programs and players.
Classic Patrick attire — white tee shirt and blue jeans — were worn by coaches and many spectators in the late coach’s honor. He and Burgman were fast friends. Also, Burgman told, he and his wife, Patsy, were celebrating their 37th wedding anniversary Tuesday. Patsy Burgman keeps the scorebook at the matches.
Dale Burgman credited the Butte High players with keeping each other positive and motivated.
“I’m not a cheerleader and none of us coaches are,” he said. “So, that has to come from the players themselves. Tonight, I thought I might’ve been possessed by Mr. Patrick in an instance or two.”
Back-and-forth play dictated the action, lending opportunity for the fans to cheer and cajole, from both sides of the gym. Butte High grabbed the lead for good at 11-10 on a Norman kill. Amtmann then served a four-point run that featured another Norman kill and a stuff by Plum. The Bulldogs fought off a Spartan challenge with two McLean aces. A Norman block later gave Butte High game point at 24-19, and another Sentinel hitting error on a return ended the game.
Norman drilled four aces in a five-point surge that took Butte High to a 7-3 lead in the second game. The Bulldogs held the difference most of the way, slipping to a two-point edge, 17-15, once before putting the game win away. Sentinel’s Tian Harrington hit the ace that cut the gap to two points, then Norman belted another ace and Sentinel committed two straight hitting mistakes.
Two side-outs later, Amtmann served out the game with a run that started at 21-16. All four points came on Spartan miscues, two directly on serve-receives.
Sentinel, though, seemed a different team in the third game and erupted to a 7-0 lead behind Harrington’s serving, then increased to 12-2 as 5-foot-10 freshman hitter Kylie Frohlich found open court and hitting range.
The margin was too much for Butte High to make up, especially after Harrington served a five-point run that took the Spartans to a 23-9 command. Freshman Elsa Godwin smacked a kill that tallied game point, 24-11. However, Sentinel was unable to immediately end the set, suffering a serving error and two hitting mistakes before a Butte High served fell beyond the end line to finish the game.
The fourth game went back and forth. Sentinel led 19-17 after a block and a kill by freshman Jordyn Schweyen, daughter of University of Montana head track coach Brian and UM women’s basketball assistant coach Shannon Cate Schweyen, who were collegiate All-Americans before marrying — Brian Schweyen in Montana State track and Shannon Cate as a Montana Lady Griz great.
Butte High caught up at 20-all as Sentinel was caught on a net violation. Butte High built a lead to 24-21 for match point when Brianna Collins and Norman teamed on a block. The Spartans came back again, using two Bulldog errors and a Godwin kill to knot the score. Another Norman kill gave Butte High the one-point edge again, then Ori tipped a shot off a fake set and the Spartans fumbled it. A carry call against Sentinel on the play finished the match.
“Give Sentinel credit for coming back on us in the third game,” Burgman said. “Poor passing was our problem in the third game. We need to be consistent in serve-receive or that pass isn’t good and you can’t set.”
Butte High regrouped and competed well to win the fourth game.
“We held our own,” Burgman said. “Nobody put their dawbers down.”
Ori, the senior setter, was given credit for repeatedly rallying her teammates on the floor and staying competitive.
“McKaul did a nice job of moving the ball around, too,” Burgman said. “To her credit, even if we didn’t give her a good pass, she was giving the hitters something to hit.”
The coach recognized the loud crowd, saying it was nice to see the athletes from the other fall sports in the stands rooting on the team. He added the volleyball players will be happy to return three the support.
Butte High served 13 aces in the match, led by Norman with four while McLean and Ori blistered three apiece. Ori set 19 of the team’s 20 assists, Amtmann scooped 20 digs in a strong performance and Plum notched two blocks.
Sentinel leaders were Harrington with six aces and 18 assists, Frohlich with 10 kills and two blocks, Schweyen with two blocks and Lauren Cady with 17 digs.
Butte High’s next competition will come in the Great Falls Invitational tournament Friday and Saturday.
Butte High def. Missoula Sentinel 25-19, 25-16, 14-25, 26-24
KILLS — Sentinel 31 (Kylie Frohlich 6, Jordyn Schweyen 6, Lexi Delridge 5). Butte High 25 (Caleigh Norman 9, Brittney Plum 7, Heather Blastek 6, Alli Metz 1, Bethany McLean 1, McKaul Ori 1). ASSISTS — Sentinel 27 (Tian Harrington 18, Marti Liechty 6), Butte High 20 (Ori 19, Blastek 1). ACES — Sentinel 13 (Harrington 6, Megan Becker 4, Nicole Holmquist 2), Butte High 13 (Norman 4, Ori 3, McLean 3, Hannah Amtmann 2, Blastek 1). DIGS — Sentinel 60 (Lauren Cady 17, Liechty 7, Harrington 7), Butte High 56 (Amtmann 20, McLean 10, Alli Metz 7, Norman 5, Ori 5, Amanda Spear 5, Blastek 2, Plum 1, Brianna Collins 1). BLOCKS — Sentinel 6 (Frohlich 2, Schweyen 2), Butte High 4 (Plum 2, Collins 1, Norman 1).