By Bruce Sayler
Butte Central head volleyball coach Becky Hancock is trying to put the band back together. The Maroons need to find their rhythm, she said.
A senior-laden Corvallis squad swept the BC girls 25-15, 25-15, 25-16 Saturday in a Southwestern A Conference high school girls’ volleyball match at the Maroon Activities Center (MAC).
“There were moments and that’s kind of what we’re having, right now,” Hancock said after the match. “We were just now in the locker room talking about consistency. We’re giving away way too many points and trying to win them back.”
Butte Central seems to still be learning on how to build a lead. The Maroons had a short one in the second set after falling 25-15 to the Blue Devils in the first. A Corvallis hitting error broke a 6-all tie, but BC couldn’t seize the momentum. Laila Smart of the Blue Devils snapped an 8-all tie by dropping a long return just inside the end line. A Butte Central hitting error followed Dakota Powell taking over serve for Corvallis. The Blue Devils found their rhythm. An Olivia Lewis kill was followed by a Powell ace, then another Lewis kill and another Powell ace. The Maroons were called for a four-hit violation and the Corvallis run ended on a hitting error. The Blue Devils owned a 15-9 command.
“We need to get rid of our unforced errors,” Hancock said. “It’s going to take a while.”
“We lost a core group of seniors from last year. So, a lot of kids are out there for us without varsity experience. It’s a matter of rhythm, finding consistency in our game. We have just three girls from last year (returning starters Mollie Drew, Lucy Kelly and Ella Moodry) filling some big shoes.”
Corvallis reached set point, 24-15, in the second game on a stuff block by Britta Iman and won the set when a BC shot tangled in the net.
Seven of the Blue Devils’ nine players listed on their varsity roster are seniors. Iman is a junior and Kaitlyn Keller a 5-fot-9 sophomore.
Butte Central grabbed a 4-0 lead to start the third set with Drew serving. A Corvallis hitting error put the ball in Drew’s hands and the Maroons scored on an Irelyn Crossman dig that found an open landing, a Blue Devil net violation on a Drew tip and a Kathryn Lalicker kill. Smart smoked a kill for Corvallis and the Blue Devils had serve back.
The BC girls held their opponents off until Corvallis caught up at 10-all on the first of two straight ace serves by Meredith Buhler. The Blue Devils had gained the lead and they kept it.
They slowly built on it. Match point arrived at 24-15 when a Butte Central shot hit wide of the boundary. A Moodry kill brought the score to 24-16 and then a Maroon return wrapped itself in the net and the match was over.
“The key thing is consistency,” Hancock said. “There’s no consistency in our game, yet. It’s early in the season and we knew going in it would take time. Team chemistry is huge. We have to build it. Getting used to new faces is key in our rotation. “
The rotation is still a project as Hancock and her staff experiment with different combinations of athletes together on the floor.
“We have to move forward and improve each and every day,” Hancock said, “and peak toward the postseason.”
Lewis finished with 14 kills to pace the Corvallis offense. Smart served five aces and posted a pair of blocks. Powell led the floor defense with 21 digs and Vivian Potter set 31 assists. Butte Central leaders included Drew with six kills and 10 digs, Lalicker with seven assists, Moodry with three blocks and Kate Johnston with 13 digs.
The Maroons are scheduled for two road matches this next week — at Stevensville on Thursday and then at Frenchtown on Saturday. Both are conference contests.
Corvallis def. Butte Central 25-15, 25-15, 25-16.
KILLS – Corvallis 38 (Olivia Lewis 14), Butte Central 14 (Mollie Drew 6, Ella Moodry 4, Kathryn Lalicker 3, Arika Stajcar 1). ASSISTS – Corvallis 33 (Vivian White 31), Butte Central 12 (Lalicker 7, Drew 5). ACES – Corvallis 14 (Laila Smart 5), Butte Central 0. DIGS – Corvallis 64 (Dakota Powell 21), Butte Central 44 (Kate Johnston 13, Drew 10, Lalicker 8, Moodry 6, Stajcar 3, Irelyn Crossman 3, Lucy Kelly 1). BLOCKS – Corvallis 2 (Smart 2), Butte Central 5 (Moodry 3, Lalicker 1, Stajcar 1).