Maroons ready for State

Last year was supposed to be the year the Maroons finally made the Class A State tournament in volleyball.

The Maroons were playing well and hosting the Southwestern A Divisional tournament at the Maroon Activities Center.

Butte Central, though, placed third that weekend and had to watch two other teams celebrate the berths in the state tournament.

This year, the Maroons didn’t have such a frustrating finish. Butte Central got to do some celebrating at divisionals this time around, placing second last weekend in Hamilton.

Thursday, the Maroons play their long-awaited first state tournament match when they take on Frenchtown (9-9) at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse on the MSU campus in Bozeman. The Broncs won the Northwestern A Divisional tournament.

The Maroons enter the tournament perhaps playing their best volleyball.

Butte Central has been on fire since pulling out a thrilling five-game win at Dillon on Sept. 29.

That started a 12-match run that saw Butte Central go 10-2. That run included a 4-2 showing at divisional, where the Maroons had to knock off rivals Dillon and Anaconda back to back to extend their season.

That record doesn’t include a second-place showing at the Butte Central Blocktober Classic on Oct. 13. The Maroons (12-6 overall) took a game from Belgrade (23-1) in the best-of-three championship match.

Senior Danee Leary has emerged as one of the top all-around players in the state during BC’s hot streak. Leary finished the regular season ranked No. 2 in the Southwestern A with 263 kills. She was No. 4 in the league with 231 digs.

Classmate Mariah Cooney ranked in the top 10 in kills and blocks. She was No, 9 with 135 kills and No. 2 with 54 blocks.

The Maroons also got a strong kill and block threat back on Oct. 6 when senior Annie Ossello returned from an illness that made her miss the first month of the season.

Setters Shannon McLaughlin and Taylor Marthaller, both seniors, are ranked in the top 10 in assists, running coach Kaila Minehan’s offense. McLaughlin also won the league’s ace title, serving 36 aces in the regular season.

Senior libero Danika Neumann, ranked No. 7 in digs with 206. Throw in defensive specialist Cassidy McGree, hitters Teresa Piazzola and Sierra Pica, middle blocker Sadie Harrington and right-side blocker Lacey McGree, and the Maroons have a well-balanced lineup ready for a deep run in Bozeman.

A BC victory in the opener would put the Maroons in a 6 p.m. match against either Billings Central or Lewistown. A loss would mean a 10 a.m. Friday match in loser-out play.

The Maroons battled back through the second-chance bracket at the divisional tournament Saturday after falling to Corvallis in the undefeated semifinal match on Friday.

Click here for the tournament bracket.