BC volleyball drops 5-setter, places 3rd at State

By Bruce Sayler

BOZEMAN — Butte Central placed third at the state Class A high school girls’ volleyball tournament, but the ending did not come out the way the Maroons had it planned.
Season nemisis Corvallis topped BC 25-22, 18-25, 25-22, 10-25, 16-14 in the Saturday consolation-round semifinal/loser-out to advance to the afternoon championship against Columbia Falls. (Columbia Falls then swept Corvallis in the championship match 25-17, 25-22, 25-15.)
The Maroons had reached the winners’ bracket semifinal, but lost there in five sets to Columbia Falls to end up in the match against consolation survivor Corvallis.
After the BC players collected their third-place trophy and retreated to their locker room to change out of their uniforms for the last time this season, some for the final time. They then emerged and somberly walked down a hallway at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse on the Montana State University campus, heading for a door to leave the building, the tournament.
Their teenage faces were tracing with their tears of disappointment as the Butte Central players walked quietly.
“We didn’t come prepared,” one of the girls said, breaking the silence. “We didn’t wear waterproof makeup.”
Laughter sounded.
No, the Maroons didn’t come prepared. They didn’t come prepared to lose, simply put.
“They went out (of the tournament) with a big fight,” Becky Hancock, rightfully proud head coach of the Maroons, said. “They never let down. They could’ve folded at anytime. They made it to the last day and a lot of teams never did,”
Five of the teams who qualified for the state Class A tournament didn’t make it to the last day. Butte Central actually outscored Corvallis overall on Saturday, 108-94, but was unable to cluster the points in the right groups to lean one of those close sets its way.
“We were right there at the end with Columbia Falls and Corvallis,” Hancock said. “One team had to lose (before reaching the title tilt) and, unfortunately, it was us. We can’t hang our heads about that. We took Corvallis to 16-14, right down to the very end.”
The Maroons lost only five matches out of the 23 they played this season. All of the losses lasted five sets and four of the defeats were to Corvallis, the other to Columbia Falls.
“Five sets everytime,” Hancock said of the few losses. “That shows the fight in our girls.”
The trophy, for third place, was the first state tournament volleyball trophy that was captured by a Butte Central team. This trip to the state tourney was only the second in the Maroons’ volleyball history of about 30 years.
“This team made history so many times this season,” Hancock said. “The trophy is materialistic, but it is the first hardware volleyball will bring home from State. There are little girls in the Butte Central system looking up to our players right now and wanting to be like them. So, it means much.”
The Saturday match with Corvallis was fierce in competition, but was marred by a bevy of net violations called throughout the duration. The anxious players seemed to be crashing the front in trying to defend the center. However, by the fifth game, the participants seemed more cognizant of their borders.
The teams were locked 10-all in the tiebreaker set when Corvallis grabbed an edge on a block by 5-foot-9 freshman Maureen Jessop. She added a kill and then the Blue Devils scored again on a tip shot by Hannah Capko. Sierra Pica tallied a tip for Butte Central to gain a point and the side-out. McKenzie Gallagher then fired an ace and Pica fenced up a block and the set was tied at 13-all. Jessop got another tip for Corvallis for match point. Pica’s kill re-tied the score. A Butte Central shot then veered right and landed out of bounds, giving the Blue Devils a 15-14 edge to sit again on match point. Capko toed the service line and Taia Tully ended the match and the Maroons’ season with a kill that ricocheted off the BC block and fell out of bounds.
The day began with the same intensity. Butte Central led game one 21-19 after a kill by Teresa Piazzola, but the Maroons tangled a shot in the net to turn over the serve. Genesis Keith clubbed a kill for the Blue Devils, tying the score at 21-all before Sierra Pica pasted one for BC to give her team an edge. However, Butte Central committed two consecutive hitting errors, handing Corvallis the one-point lead, 23-22. Blue Devil Holly Wilson aced a serve and then Katie Hurlbert hammered a kill though the Maroons’ block to secure the first-set win.
Butte Central led much of the early part of the second game and then opened up the margin behind a six-point serving run by Emily St. John. Ryan Trudnowski scored on a block and a kill, Piazzola tallied on a two-handed tip and the other three points in the run were scored on two Corvallis errors and a violation. The Blue Devils battled back to within 17-15 after a kill by Hannah Capko. BC refused to relinquish the lead and stayed ahead to 21-18 before Corbyn Holm served out the set. A faked-set tip by St. John scored a point and then Corvallis crumbled by putting two shots into the net and one wide of the court.
The Blue Devils used a five-point serving run by Wilson to take control of the third set and a 7-4 lead. They repelled challenges from Butte Central and were buoyed by a four-point serving run from Wilson punctuated by power shots from Keith, Capko and Hurlbert. Corvallis had a 21-15 advantage. A kill by freshman Maureen Jessop put the game at set point, 24-22. The Maroons responded with a Trudnowski tip, but Wilson’s fake set for a tip point ended the set.
The BC team was still competing though with its back against the wall. A Pica kill created the side-out that tied the fourth-set score 1-all and gave the serve to Piazzola. She served four points, two on Blue Devil errors and one each on kills by Pica and Trudnowski. The Pica shot saw her hide behind Trudnowski at the net and then rise and hammer the shot after Trudnowski faked a leaping swing. Trudnowski’s spike was that of a floater that hung above the net on a return from the Corvallis side. Butte Central built on the margin and reached 20-10 on a kill by Holm. It started a five-point serving run by Taylor Wahl that reached set point on another Blue Devil error. A serve and side-out later, Corvallis walloped a shot beyond the end line and the match went to the tie-breaker.
The floor defense was so ferocious that 129 digs were registered, 127 by Corvallis. Butte Central was led by Mollie Peoples with 23, St. John with 20 and Piazzola with 19. Tully had a match-high 33 digs for Corvallis, backed by 30 from Hurlbert. The Maroons posted 18 blocks as Trudnowski had seven, McGree four and Pica three to lead the outstanding effort at the net. BC also was led by two aces each from Piazzola and Gallagher, 13 kills from Pica and 37 assists from St. John. She set all of the team’s assists — again.
Keith finished with 17 kills and Capko had 10. Wilson set 45 assists and she and Capko each served two aces.
The best team in Butte Central volleyball history wasn’t known to be even by its coach until a few weeks into the season, Hancock said.
“I didn’t see the potential until about five games into the season,” she said. “We were down 18-23 at Belgrade and came back and won the set. That was when I knew this team had that mental toughness.”
The girls who made the history might not even appreciate until days, weeks, months, even years from now.
“They’ll appreciate the memories, the accomplishments and the experiences,” Hancock said. “They have a bond, a team chemistry and they’ll appreciate what they had as a team. They’ll realize they were in the top three of the best (Class A) teams in the state. They took third place and that’s something to be proud of.
“The girls get along on and off the court. How strong they were and how they had that never-give-up attitude, those are things they’ll take from this year.”

Corvallis def. Butte Central 25-22, 18-25, 25-22, 10-25, 16-14.
KILLS — BC 47 (Sierra Pica 13, Corbyn Holm 8, Lacey McGree 8), Corvallis 51 (Genesis Keith 17, Hannah Capko 10). ASSISTS — BC 37 (Emily St. John 37), Corvallis 48 (Holly Wilson 45). ACES — BC 4 (Teresa Piazzola 2, McKenzie Gallagher 2), Corvallis 7 (Wilson 2, Capko 2). DIGS — BC 102 (Mollie Peoples 23, St. John 20, Piazzola 19), Corvallis 127 (Taia Tully 33, Katie Hurlbert 30). BLOCKS — BC 18 (Ryan Trudnowski 7, L. McGree 4, Pica 3), Corvallis 3 (Capko 2).

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