By Bruce Sayler
The Butte High girls were, perhaps, a bit harder on themselves than their coach had thought to be.
Seniors Brooke McGrath and Kennedie McMahon both said they “definitely” thought their Butte High 25-19, 25-23, 25-13 Western AA Conference high school volleyball sweep of Kalispell Flathead Friday was the match the Bulldogs had played all season.
Head coach Shane Jorgensen said it was their best in about a month.
“Everybody was wanting to win,” McMahon said.
“It was about not wanting to give up, even when we got behind a little bit,” McGrath added.
It didn’t seem Butte High was behind much. The Bulldogs established authority in the first, and survived challenges in the second set. They were dominant in the third.
Friday’s 2 p.m. start in the Civic Center didn’t allow for as pre-match stress time as normal 7 p.m. first serves bring, the girls said.
“The anticipation was not so much,” McMahon said.
“I like playing this early,” McGrath said. “The anticipation brings us down so much, takes away so much of our energy.”
Energy wasn’t a Butte High problem against the Bravettes.
The Bulldogs held a thin lead early in the first set, let Flathead leap ahead and then squared up the score again. The margin remained small, though, and was tied at 19-all after a Butte High hit traveled long.
Butte High junior Laura Rosenleaf broke the tie with a kill and Katie Keller then served out for the Bulldogs. Ashley Olson notched a block for the next point and Flathead committed two straight hitting errors. An ace by Keller brought set point at 24-19 and then Olson’s stuff block finished the set.
The Bulldogs played in pink attire in tribute to Cancer Awareness Month and in honor of several Butte residents battling cancer.
Offense and defense both looked in step for Butte High on the Civic Center sports court.
“The back row was really together for us tonight,” McMahon, an outside hitter, said. “It helped the setting out. It was really nice for everything to click. It was nice to show what our team is like.”
McGrath, an all-arounder on the court, said the improved pass-receive showed in the sets.
“Our sets were consistent,” she said, crediting them for the Bulldogs’ offensive success.
Flathead led much of the second game, but never by much. The Bravettes had a 13-10 advantage after an ace served by Cyan Mooney and looked to be building. However, Olson fenced across a block and belted a kill, then McGrath made a block and the score was tied. A Keller ace gave Butte High the lead and the set stayed tight. Leads changed and ties knotted, the last time at 23-all after Flathead was called for a carry.
McGrath punched a tip shot past the front row for set point, and Mollee Conlan’s serve was flipped out of bounds as the Bravettes tried to pass. The play gave Butte High the winning point.
The Bulldogs riveted punctuation to their effort in the third set. Teagan Kennis killed a shot for the first point of the game and Butte High never trailed. An eight-point run included three aces by McGrath and three kills by McMahon while opening an 18-7 margin for the Bulldogs. They hit match point at 24-12 on a Rosenleaf tip. Flathead scored on a kill by Savanna Sterck. However, a net violation ensued and, after discussion among the officials, it was determined the Bravettes were the guilty party. The match was over.
Flathead showed a decided height advantage, except for the 6-foot-2 Olson on the Butte High side of the net. The Bulldogs were unfazed.
“Everybody but Butte is really tall,” the 5-10 McMahon said. “So, we’re always playing against a taller team.”
“We’re Butte tall,” the 5-9 McGrath said. “Today, we were able to show what we can do against height.”
Conlan and Olson each nailed seven kills to lead a balanced Butte High offense. McMahon and Rosenleaf each hit six. McGrath fired six aces, Keller set 16 assists, and Olivia Quinn put up 13. Olson posted five blocks and Rosenleaf had four. The digs leaders were McGrath with nine and Conlan with eight.
Flathead leaders were Kennedy Moore with two aces, Savanna Sterck five kills, Kylie Munsinger 10 assists, Akilah Kubi three blocks and Mooney 17 digs.
Butte High will play Glacier High of Kalispell on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Civic Center.
Butte High def. Kalispell Flathead 25-19, 25-23, 25-13
KILLS – Flathead 18 (Savannah Sterck 5, Maddy Moy 4), Butte 32 (Mollee Conlan 7, Ashley Olson 7, Kennadie McMahon 6, Laura Rosenleaf 6, Brooke McGrath 4, Teagan Kennis 2). ASSISTS – Flathead 19 (Kylie Munsinger 10, Kennedy Moore 8), Butte 30 (Katie Keller 16, Olivia Quinn 13, Rosenleaf 1). ACES – Flathead 3 (Moore 2, Munsinger 1), Butte 9 (McGrath 6, Keller 2, Conlan 1). DIGS – Flathead 51 (Cyan Mooney 17, Savannah Sterck 11), Butte 41 (McGrath 9, Conlan 8, Keller 5, Jordyn Bolton 5, Quinn 4, Kennis 4, Olson 3, Rosenleaf 2, McMahon 1). BLOCKS – Flathead 3 (Akilah Kubi 3), Butte 13 (Olson 5, Rosenleaf 4, Conlan 2, McGrath 1, McMahon 1).