By Bruce Sayler
The recovery of Butte Central’s volleyball team was what was important to head coach Becky Hancock Saturday as she talked about the team’s pearls and perils in its own Blocktober Classic tournament held over the weekend.
The 26-team field competed over two days in three Butte facilities before eventually crowning champions. Hardin won the overall championship with a 25-11, 25-22 sweep over Billings Central in the title match played at the Butte Civic Center.
Butte Central struggled through a winless Friday during pool play to land in the Copper Bracket for Saturday play. The Maroons began the day with a win over Miles City, then dropped a couple of tough decisions to Columbia Falls and Livingston.
The win over the Cowgirls was what Hancock hung onto as she talked in the Montana Tech HPER Complex, site of Copper Bracket play. Columbia Falls was the winner of the bracket, defeating Browning for the title.
“Today was a lot better,” Hancock said. “We were more solid and contested better. I enjoyed what we brought through today.”
Adversity arrived in a hurry for the BC girls on Saturday, though. Senior setter Mollie Drew took the brunt of a fierce Miles City smash right in the face toward the end of the day’s first match.
“Broken nose,” Hancock said. “Senior setter, so we had to make some adjustments.
“But the girls rebounded really well from (Friday) and I liked what I saw today.”
Hancock had recently changed the offense over to more of a one-setter alignment from a 6-2 attack that utilized two setters. The other setter was senior Kathryn Lalicker, who immediately was able to step in and pick it up for Drew’s loss, the coach said.
“Hopefully, we can take this into next week and play well against Stevensville,” Hancock said.
Drew was in the fray long enough to stack 15 assists and three aces as one of the Maroon leaders for the day. Lalicker had 12 kills and 30 digs over her three matches Saturday. Ella Moodry notched 20 kills and 45 digs, libero Kate Johnston came up with 51 digs, and Lucy Kelly led the defense at the net with four blocks.
Blocktober Classic matches were best two-of-three.
A hot start lit Hardin in the Championship Bracket’s title tilt. Johanna Limberhand spiked a kill for the first point of the match, brought the serve to the Bulldogs and then Carmen Pallone served seven straight points.
Limberhand had two kills and a block in the early service run. The Bulldogs continued to build on the lead and got the spread to 10 points, 19-9. A Pallone kill gave Hardin a 24-11 set point. The set ended on a Billings Central hitting error, tangling a shot in the net.
The Rams played the Bulldogs tougher in the second set. After trailing 6-1 early, Billings Central roared back and caught up at 11-all when Kamryn Reinker pounded a floater from teammate Annie Hanser’s dig for a kill. Point trading ensued and the Rams took their first lead of the day, 13-12, on a block by Ryen Hadley. Their last lead was 18-17 after freshman Grace Jagodzinski blasted a kill. A service error tied the score and then Hardin went ahead for good. A Billings Central hitting miscue was followed by Macy Uffelman’s kill for the Bulldogs. Pallone and Limberhand combined on a block for set point at 24-20. Two kills by Reinker kept the match going until Hardin scored on a kill.
Boulder placed third and Polson fourth in the nine-team Championship Bracket at the Civic Center. The Consolation Bracket was contested at the Maroon Activities Center (MAC) and saw Lockwood top it with Bigfork second, Dillon third and Florence fourth. It also had nine teams.
The Copper Bracket at Montana Tech, involving eight teams, was topped by Columbia Falls with Browning second, Livingston third and Miles City fourth.
Friday’s pool-play matches determined bracket placements.
Results and other tournament information is available at the www.tinyurl.com/23blocktober Web site.