By Bruce Sayler
The sparring never turned into a knockout for Butte High volleyball on Thursday..
Now, after the Bulldogs’ loss in a sweep to Flathead of Kalispell, they are in danger of being knocked out of the Western AA Divisional tournament. Butte High lost its first-round match by 25-19, 25-22, 25-16. It will play Missoula Hellgate on Friday at 11 a.m. in a loser-out contest.
The tournament continues through Saturday in the Butte Civic Center.
“We had too many unforced errors,” Shane Jorgensen, head coach of the Bulldogs, said. “Before, in the first two matches this season with Flathead, our serve-receive was horrible. Our serve-receive and our serving were great today, but our hitting was off. We had 29 hitting errors. It’s tough to win games with that many hitting errors. Thirty or so unforced errors are too many.”
Butte High was in the thick of every set, too. Oddly, however, about halfway through each game, the team seemed to deflate.
“Whatever the reason, Flathead has our number,” Jorgensen said. “We play well about half a game, 15 points or so and then a switch happens. I don’t know if we try too hard or are too relaxed. I wish I had an answer.”
The Bulldogs led at 10-9 in the first set and then were afflicted with three straight errors and fell behind 12-10. Flathead grew the margin steadily and reached set point at 24-18 when the Bulldogs suffered a pass-set disconnection. Two serves later, a Butte High dump try tangled in the net and the Bravettes had won the first set.
The Bulldogs dug an early hole in the second game. Flathead hitter Olive Lyngholm killed for the first point and Butte High followed with two hitting miscues. Sienna Sterck fenced a block and the Bravettes had a 4-0 start.
The Bulldogs battled back to an 8-all tie as Maddie Luedtke stuffed on a block. A kill by Taylor Drakos sent Butte High ahead 9-8. After Flathead tied on the next serve, Butte High grabbed a 13-9 edge as Jaycee Cleveland nailed a kill, Luedtke aced a serve, the Bravettes got caught on a four-hit violation and Bulldog Brityn Stewart tipped in a point. Flathead closed the gap, caught up at 15-all on a stuff by Lyngholm and went ahead as a Butte High shot soared over the end line.
The Bravettes built on the margin and reached set point at 24-20 when a Butte High serve sailed past the end line. A kill by Flathead’s Libby Peltz ended the set three serves later.
The Bulldogs’ last lead was 5-4 in the third game. Stewart had made it 5-2 on a tip, then the Bravettes tallied the next five points, thinning the difference to 5-4 on a Lyngholm kill, tying the score on an ace by Sterck and going ahead on another Lyngholm kill.
Butte High stayed within three or four points until three consecutive hitting errors dropped the Bulldogs seven points behind, 21-14. Back-to-back kills by Sterck ended the match moments later.
Sterck and Lyngholm finished with eight kills each to lead the Flathead attack. Emma DeLong fired two aces. Freshman setter Anna Bain had 25 assists. Kendall Kratofil came up with 22 digs and Eve led in blocks with a solo and three helps.
Butte High leaders included Luedtke with 10 kills, Mickenzie McIntyre with three aces, Cleveland with 20 assists, Mylee Demarois with three blocks and Stewart with nine digs.
Kalispell Flathead def. Butte High 25-19, 25-22, 25-16.
KILLS – Flathead 28 (Olive Lyngholm 8, Sienna Sterck 8, Emma Eve 6, Libby Peltz 3, Zia Georgeff 2, Emma DeLong 1), Butte High 29 (Maddie Luedtke 10, Mickenzie McIntyre 5, Peyton Trabert 4, Jaycee Cleveland 3, Brityn Stewart 3, Mylee Demarois 3, Taylor Drakos 1). ASSISTS – Flathead 25 (Anna Bain 25), Butte High 21 (Cleveland 20, Kenzie Hansen 1). ACES – Flathead 6 (DeLong 2, Bain 1, Kendall Kratofil 1, Lyngholm 1, Sterck 1), Butte High 6 (McIntyre 3, Luedtke 2, Makenzie Dayhuff 1). DIGS – Flathead 69 (Kratofil 22, Lyngholm 15, Sterck 12, Bain 7, DeLong 6, Georgeff 3, Eve 2, Peltz 2), Butte High 54 (Stewart 9, Cadence Graham 8, Cleveland 8, Drakos 8, Hansen 7, Luedtke 6, Trabert 5, McIntyre 3). BLOCKS – Flathead 11 (Eve 4, Sterck 4, Gergeff 2, Bain 1, Peltz 1), Butte High 7 (Demarois 3, Cleveland 1, Luedtke 1, Stewart 1, Trabert 1).