By Ron Davis
The Butte Central Maroons opened the Southwestern A Divisional hosting the East Helena Vigilantes in a first round play-in game. With no District tournament this year the single elimination play-in match puts the season on the line for both teams. The winner advances to a second play-in game Saturday.
The Maroons did not waste much time setting the pace of the match. Senior setter, Mia Keeley, aced the first serve of the match and quickly the Maroons were up 4-0 before a BC kill attempt went long giving the Vigilantes their first point. Butte Central got the ball right back and led 6-1 before East Helena Middle hitter Dymon Root slammed a kill up the middle to slow the BC attack.
Ella Moodry made a diving save of a soft shot that rallied her teammates and the Maroons were back up 8-3. Brooke Badovinac placed a push shot and a cut shot off of a back set by Keeley and Central was up 11-5. A few side outs later and BC was up 14-7 Molly Drew took the serve and added 3 quick points followed by a Moodry kill and East Helena was forced to take a time out trailing the Maroons 18-8.
Out of the time out Moodry and Lucy Kelly blocked Roots kill attempt followed by 2 more Moodry hard kills and a block by Moodry putting BC up 24-15. Maycee Andersons serve was returned into the net by East Helena and the Maroons took the first set 25-15.
The second set was a whole different story as defense took over and both teams were determined to let nothing hit the floor. The game started 1-1 and stayed a 2-point game until a back row drive by Moodry found the floor and BC enjoyed its biggest lead of the set 13-9.
The lead didn’t last long and the set was tied at 16, the first of 9 ties in the set. The teams were tied again at 19 following a Root block of a Maroon kill. They were tied again at 23 when a BC player was in the net on a block attempt. The defenses once again rallied back and forth before the next tie at 24 when Montana Pierson found the edge of the court on a tip shot. The teams tied again at 25 following a double hit on the Vigilantes and an out of bounds tip by BC.
Jaeden Berger looked to BC in control on a long corner shot that dropped just inside the line but a serving error tied it back up at 26. An attempted tip by East Helena was blocked at the net by Moodry and the Vigilantes returned the favor with Root blocking a Moodry kill attempt on the next play to once again tie the score at 27.
A push to the back row put BC up by one but another serving error by Butte Central took the game to its final tie of the set at 28 all.
It was Keeley time for the Maroons as the Senior setter followed her serve to the net pushing a long pass by Helena over the net and out of the reach of a defender giving the Maroons a 1 point advantage. Keeley served an Ace to give the Maroons a hard fought 30-28 win and put them up 2-0 in the best of 5 match.
The third set of the match started with a Butte Central 6-0 run but East Helena wasn’t going to fold as they rallied back to pull within 2 at 10-8. The Maroon defense tightened up and Mia Keeley used push and cut shots to pu the home team up 18-12. The Vigilantes, who will host the Southwestern A Divisional tournament next weekend, kept the pressure on cutting the BC lead to 19-16. Lucy Kelly dropped a shot over the hands of the blockers, a hitting error by East Helena and another Keeley push put the home team two points away from advancing to the second round.
Hattie Mehring, spelled correctly, entered the game and served the final 2 points the last being another Maroon Ace serve and Central completed the sweep with a 25-17 third set victory.
Coach Becky Hancock loved her teams Defense in the match, “this was our best defensive game we have played all season. The girls rallied to the ball and pushed the entire game.” “East Helena played and outstanding game, they put together a great match.”
When asked what made the difference in the match Hancock said, “our serving game is huge, when we are on, we can dominate a match. In the second set both teams were on a roller coaster serving and that kept the game close. Also Ella Moodrys hard kills and Brooke Badovinacs shots off of swing around slide back sets were huge.”
The Maroons will host the second-round play-in game this Saturday against Corvallis, who defeated Frenchtown in tonight’s other play-in game. The match will tip off at 2pm at the MAC. The girls are hoping to see another big supportive crowd at the gym.
Maycee Anderson was the defensive catalyst for the Maroons digging up 18 kill attempts and driving numerous balls over the net from the back row. Keeley set 14 assists, set 14 assists, served 5 aces and had 6 key kills. Moodry had 15 digs, 7 kills, 2 blocks and an ace serve. Senior Molly Drew served 3 aces and popped up 16 digs. Brooke Badovinac added 5 kills , 3 digs and 8 service points. Hattie Mehring served 3 aces included the match winning final point.
Hancock was already looking ahead to Friday’s practice. “We have to work on our rotations to cut down our errors and get more scoring out of some of them.”