By Bruce Sayler
Butte High needed to win the third game to assure victory. It was imperative.
The Bulldogs didn’t do it and let Glacier High of Flathead breathe new volleyball blood through its veins. It was enough for a comeback win Saturday, rallying past the Bulldogs 10-25, 22-25, 27-25, 25-20, 15-12.
Butte High breezed through the first set of the Western AA Conference match played in the Butte Civic Center. It survived challenge in the second.
The third was pivotal.
“We knew after the second game, when they down six or seven points, they would battle back,” Shane Jorgensen, head coach of the Bulldogs, said. “In game three, we told (the Bulldogs) not to expect (the Wolfpack) to roll over. They didn’t. And, Christy (Harkins, Glacier head coach), made some great adjustments.”
The Wolfpack swept through the last three sets to leave town with a victory.
“We did a lot of tipping in games one and two,” Jorgensen said, talking about the Glacier defense loosening its alignment as one adjustment, spreading across the floor more. “Our passing kind of struggled and we couldn’t get our hits where they needed to be.
“Our communication broke down. We weren’t talking loud or consistently.”
The early set win, the 25-10 domination for the Bulldogs was a kind of Trojan Horse experience, their coach said.
“I hate blowing a team out right away,” Jorgensen said. “It gives us a false sense of security. We let our guard down.”
Serving runs by Joscelyn Cleveland and Mollee Conlan helped Butte High built a 15-5 advantage in the first set. Conlan served three aces in her six-point run, and she and Brooke McGrath were also strong at the net.
McGrath and Cleveland both celebrated their 18th birthdays Saturday. It looked like they would be blowing out the Wolfpack’s candles with how the Bulldogs started the match.
It was also a Cancer Awareness Month recognition event and special mentions and tributes were given in pre-match ceremonies. The Bulldogs gave assistant coach Laura Mortensen, who is battling cancer, roses in recognition of her fight. Fundraisers to help local victims with their cancer battles were held.
Katie Keller followed Conlan with a seven-point service run of her own net play by Ashley Olson and Kennadie McMahon augmenting Keller’s serving.
The combination grew the advantage to 22-8. A Glacier error later tapped out set point at 24-9. A side-out later, after a Sidney Gulick block for Glacier, a Wolfpack player’s serve missed long and Butte High had its 25-10 win.
Glacier toughened in the second set and owned the early lead. The Wolfpack had an 18-12 margin after a Butte High shot traveled long of court. At 20-16, Conlan toed the service line.
She served a four-point run that tied the score, pulling even at 20-all on a McGrath kill. Glacier edged out to a thin lead before a block by Olson tied the score at 22-all. McGrath killed a shot to give the Bulldogs the edge. A block by Olson created set point and then Olson took a set from Keller to belt a kill and end the second set.
The Bulldogs were in the driver’s seat.
They led most of the third game and had an 18-14 difference after a kill by Teagan Kennis. A short time later, Gulick took over serve with Glacier trailing 19-16.
Gulick served a six-point run peppered with Butte High miscues as the Wolfpack passed the Bulldogs for a 22-19 lead. They got to set point, 24-22, when Sammie Labrum pushed a shot into an open space. Butte High bounced back and tied the score as Olson stuffed a Glacier try. She registered a block immediately after for a 25-24 Butte High edge. A kill by Gulick re-tied the score. Madisyn Frazier then served an ace for Glacier before another pushed kill by Labrum finished the set, the Wolfpack gaining a win.
Glacier led all of the fourth set, mostly by four or five points. A stuff by Conlan gave Butte High a short-lived edge at 10-9. Freshman Kenedee Moore pushed a kill into a vacant place to knot the score for Glacier. Sarah Downs posted a block and the Wolfpack led the rest of the way. A Labrum kill made set point 24-20. Downs downed a kill and Glacier had tied the match at two wins apiece.
The Wolfpack started the tie-breaker game hot, rolling out to a 7-3 advantage as Labrum sizzled three aces and two kills.
Butte High clawed back and pulled even at 10-all on a kill by McGrath.
Labrum broke the tie with a kill and then Frazier fired an ace. A Butte High shot sailed wide of the court and Labrum notched another kill as the Wolfpack reached match point at 14-11. Glacier was then whistled for a four-hit violation, but Butte High then hit outside the net post on a return. The out-of-bounds shot ended the match.
Jorgensen said his team is far from done and likely on the upswing despite the frustrating loss.
“Our girls don’t know how good they are, right now,” he said. “If they figure that out, we will be a deadly team at divisionals. We just played two or three of the best teams in our conference and showed we can play with them or beat them. We will peak at divisionals.”
The Bulldogs will next play on Thursday, against Missoula Sentinel in the Civic Center.
Olson led Butte High’s offense Saturday with 12 kills while Kennis was next with seven. Conlan led in aces with three. Keller and Olivia Quinn combined for 28 assists. The block was good with Conlan stacking seven blocks and Olson fencing up six. Libero Jordyn Bolton scooped 18 digs and was backed by Quinn and McGrath with 14 apiece.
Wolfpack leaders were the 6-foot Gulick with 20 kills and four blocks, Haven Spear with 44 assists, Frazier with 24 digs, and Labrum and Maddie Davis with three aces each.
Kalispell Glacier def. Butte High 10-25, 22-25, 27-25, 25-20, 15-12
KILLS – Glacier 50 (Sydney Gulick 20), Butte 33 (Ashley Olson 12, Teagan Kennis 7, Brooke McGrath 6, Mollee Conlan 4, Kennadie McMahon 3, Laura Rosenleaf 1). ASSISTS – Glacier 45 (Haven Spear 44), Butte 30 (Katie Keller 16, Olivia Quinn 12, McMahon 1, Rosenleaf 1. ACES – Glacier 10 (Sammie Labrum 3, Maddie Davis 3), Butte 10 (Conlan 3, Keller 2, Jordyn Bolton 2, Joscelyn Cleveland 2, McGrath 1). DIGS – Glacier 74 (Madisyn Frazier 24), Butte 67 (Bolton 18, Quinn 14, McGrath 14, Conlan 10, Keller 4, Rosenleaf 3, Cleveland 3, Kennis 1). BLOCKS – Glacier 7 (Gulick 4), Butte 15 (Conlan 7, Olson 6, McGrath 4, Rosenleaf 4, McMahon 3).