Maroons leave little doubt in sweep of Panthers

Belgrade got off to a fast start against Butte Central’s undefeated volleyball team Tuesday night at the Maroon Activities Center.

The Panthers jumped out to a 16-11 lead and put into jeopardy BC’s 27-set winning streak in the regular season.

The Maroons, though, bounced back to take the first set 25-19. BC left little doubt in the next two sets, winning 25-14 and 25-12 as the Maroons rolled their record to 10-0 on the regular season.

Butte Central has swept all 10 of those matches, rolling up a 30-0 record in sets. The Panthers fell to 10-5 with their second loss to the Maroons.

“I loved everything about how we played tonight,” BC head coach Becky Hancock said after the non-conference win over the defending state Class A champion Panthers. “We played together and we played strong.”

Butte Central dropped two sets on Saturday in its own Blocktober Classic tournament and did not advance to the championship bracket, topping the consolation bracket instead. The tournament did not play regulation best-of-three matches and results do not count on the participants’ records.

Hancocks said she saw her team’s recovery from the Saturday doldrums begin while trailing Belgrade later in the first set.

“At about the 18th point,” she said. “Then, we took into the 20s and went from there. Our girls were having fun. When they’re having fun, they release all that tension.”

Left-handed right-side hitter Sierra Pica re-found her hitting stroke and timing to play a key role in beating Belgrade, Hancock said.

“We were on tonight after working on the hitter-setter connection this week in practice,” the coach said. “We were blocking well, too, and playing wel on defense.

“Saturday, things weren’t clicking for us and what they say is true — what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Simply, the Maroons toughened up and seemed to force Belgrade into errors that eventually sank the Panthers.

“Tonight, we didn’t back down,” Hancock said. “I knew we’d rebound back and we did that tonight.”

Pica finished with seven kills, four digs and four blocks. Teresa Piazzola led in kills with 12 and in digs with 17. Libero Mollie Peoples had 13 digs. Emily St.

John set all 28 assists. St. John, McKenzie Gallagher and Taylor Wahl each sizzled two aces.

Belgrade leaders were freshman Bailey Christensen with 11 kills, Skyla Neubauer with a match-high 26 digs, Sydney Lambeth with the team’s only block and Shania Neubauer with an ace and 17 assists.

The first game set an intense tempo. Belgrade brought a vocal contingent to cheer the Panthers and inspired them to a 16-11 as Butte Central was guilty of some hitting errors at mid-set. Abby Klonsinski served a four-point run that took Belgrade to the 16-11 advantage. St. John followed with a seven-point run of her own, serving for the Maroons, and BC had the lead at 19-16. They kept it. Wahl served an ace for set point, 24-19, and Corbyn Holm placed a soft kill in to win the set.

Butte Central played better as the second game progressed while the Panthers seemed to struggle a little bit. The Maroons never trailed. They broke a 3-all tie on a kill by Piazzola and steadily built on their lead. Another Piazzola kill made it set point at 25-14 before St. John blistered in the ace serve for a winner.

Early serving runs by Holm and Peoples helped BC to a 15-8 lead in the third set behind good hitting by Lacey McGree, Piazzola and Ryan Trudnowski. Belgrade was unable to close the gap to less than four points the rest of the way. Gallagher took to the service line with Butte Central in front 18-12 and served out the match. She splashed an ace after a Belgrade error, a Pica block and kills by Piazzola and Holm. The Panthers then committed two consecutive hitting errors to finish the match.

The Maroons will return to Southwestern A Conference action on Thursday with a road trip to Corvallis, which won BC’s Blocktober Classic Saturday.

“Thursday will be huge against Corvallis because it is conference,” Hancock said. “We’ll get after it down there.”

Butte Central def. Belgrade 25-19, 25-14, 25-12
KILLS — Belgrade 23 (Bailey Christensen 11), Butte Central 35 (Teresa Piazzola 12, Sierra Pica 7, Corbyn Holm 6, Emily St. John 4, Ryan Trudnowski 3, Shawnee Hjelt 2, Lacey McGree 1). ASSISTS — Belgrade 20 (Shania Neubauer 17), Butte Central 28 (St. John 28). ACES — Belgrade 1 (Shania Newbauer), Butte Central 6 (St. John 2, McKenzie Gallagher 2, Taylor Wahl 2). DIGS — Belgrade 66 (Skyla Neubauer 26, Christensen 13), Butte Central 64 (Piazzola 17, Mollie Peoples 13, St. John 9, Hjelt 8, Wahl 6, Pica 4, Gallagher 3, Holm 2, McGree 1, Trudnowski 1). BLOCKS– Belgrade 1 (Sydney Lambeth), Butte Central 6 (Pica 4, McGree 2, Trudnowski 1).

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