Maroons serve up win

Shannon McLaughlin has a license to pick on people.

The Butte Central senior is an all-out bully when she steps behind the serving line on the volleyball court.

“I don’t usually get hit the ball at people,” McLaughlin, a setter, said Thursday after the Maroons completed a hard-fought 27-25, 25-21, 25-23 Southwestern A sweep of Dillon at the Maroon Activities Center. “When I get to serve I get to hit them in the face. I aim at people or in between people. I see who’s struggling, and if somebody keeps struggling I keep hitting it at them. I pick on people.”

McLaughlin’s picking came at the right time Thursday. She served eight aces, including five straight to close out the second game.

“I’ve did six in a row in Stevensville last year, so I didn’t get the record,” McLaughlin said with a laugh. “It’s a lot of fun when you have everybody playing behind you. That was a really intense game, so it was easy to get fired up.”

BC coach Kaila Minehan said McLaughlin’s teammates don’t like facing her serve in practice.

“It’s never the same serve. Every time she hits it it’s different. It’s so unpredictable,” the coach said. “She’s been on fire this season. She’s fun to watch, and we needed that. It was back and forth.”

The Beavers (0-2) led each game after 20 points, and each game felt like it could have gone either way.

After Dillon served on game point in the first, the Maroons rolled of three straight points to win. Mariah Cooney, BC’s 6-foot-1 senior middle blocker, ended the game with a stuff block.

An ace by senior Danika Neuman and a spike by Cooney highlighted BC’s run to win Game 3 after the Beavers led 21-10.

“It was really big because we have all those freshman out there,” McLaughlin said of the win.

Freshmen Lacey McGree, Sierra Pica, Teresa Piazzola and Shawnee Hjelt all made their varsity debut Thursday night.

“All four of them got to play, and it was big for them to come out and play as well as they did,” McLaughlin said. “They didn’t look like freshman out there at all.”

Minehan agreed with McLaughlin’s assessment.

“Especially with Theresa on the outside, she doesn’t hit like a freshman,” Minehan said. “All of their learning curve is stand up. Pica didn’t play any volleyball before two-a-days, which is pretty amazing.”

Minehan credited Cooney, Neuman, McLaughlin and fellow seniors Danee Leary and Taylor Marthaller for mentoring the young Maroons.

“They’re kind of leading the way, pulling them along,” she said.

Cooney, who notched four blocks and served three aces, smacked nine kills to lead the Maroons. Leary killed six, while McLaughlin (12) and Marthaller (six) combined for 18 assists.

Leary and junior Sadie Harrington helped lead BC’s tough net defense, each notching a pair of blocks. Neumann collected 13 Digs, while junior Cassidy McGree dug eight.

Minehan said serve receive was key for the Maroons.

“That’s helpful when you can start each play out with a good pass,” she said.

Courtney Linder (10 kills) and Josee Pendleton (eight) led Dillon’s attack. Jacki Richardson’s set the table with 28 assists, and Tyaran Judge (14) and Kacee Williams (12) reached double digits in digs.

The Maroons (1-0) are off until next Thursday when they head to Anaconda to take on the Copperheads.

Butte Central def. Dillon 27-25, 25-21, 25-23
KILLS — Dillon 31 (Courtney Linder 10, Josee Pendleton 8), BC 22 (Mariah Cooney 9, Danee Leary 6). ASSISTS — Dillon 29 (Jacki Richardson 28), BC 20 (Shannon McLaughlin 12, Taylor Marthaller 6). BLOCKS — Dillon 5 (Cierra Lamey 2), BC 8 (Cooney 4, Sadie Harrington 2, Leary 2). ACES — Dillon 7 (Pendleton 3, Linder 2), BC 14 (McLaughlin 8, Cooney 3). DIGS — Dillon 57 (Taryn Judge 14, Kacee Williams 12), BC 43 (Danika Neumann 13, Cassidy McGree 8).