Six Butte Central seniors said goodbye to the Maroon Activities Center, in volleyball anyway, on Tuesday night and did so, well, in style, with a four-game win over Stevensville in Southwestern A Conference play.
The scores were 19-25, 25-22, 25-19, 25-22.
The win was in style with what the Maroons have accomplished this season. The way it was achieved, not so prettily. It was a fight.
Stop-and-go replaced the usual ebb-and-flow of rhythmic volleyball and the BC girls proved they could bulk up to the net along with playing their routine of well-timed offense.
“I told the girls tonight I felt like we were driving on square tires,” commented Butte Central head coach Kaila Minehan. “We started out jittery and then took a game that was unsual and we were able to win it. For seniors, it’s nice to win your last game on your home floor and ours were able to do it tonight.”
The Maroon seniors hitting the MAC floor for the last time in the sport were Danika Neumann, Shannon McLaughlin, Taylor Marthaller, Annie Ossello, Danee Leary and Mariah Cooney.
Leary had 14 kills and Cooney had 11 to lead the BC offense. McLaughlin and Marthaller each whistled three ace serves through the Yellowjacket alignment. The two also tallied 16 assists apiece. Neumann came up with 15 digs, just behind team leader Leary’s 18. Cooney notched four blocks. Ossello bolstered the play up front with six kills and three blocks.
“It was a good win for us,” Minehan said. “We needed a win tonight to control our own destiny. We will know Saturday night how we stand for the (Southwestern A Divisional) tournament.
“This win puts us in first place in the conference, but I don’t know if it’ll stay that way. We could potentially be in a three-way tie with Corvallis and Anaconda. Both of them play Hamilton this week and Corvallis also plays Dillon.
The Butte Central offense might have sputtered, especially early, but the strong defense came to the rescue. The Maroons have been very good at the net, especially on defense, this season and were again versus Stevensville, a promising team that shows no seniors on its roster.
“Our blocking has come a long way,” Minehan said. “The defense was good tonight. We had 16 blocks tonight and they were pretty well spread out. Mariah had four, and Annie and Sierra (Pica) each had three. I was very pleased with the front row.”
The back-row play, led by the libero, Neumann, is another consistent highlight for the BC squad.
“The Stevi block was pretty good, too,” Minehan said. “They threw our offense off a little and they also had couple of hard hitters.”
Stevensville did in the pounders Kyla Paulsen and Mackinzie Zimmerman. Paulsen hit 11 kills and Zimmerman belted 10. The Yellowjackets also got 13 digs from libero Carly Vercruyssen.
Stevensville pulled out its only game win of the match in the opener as Megan Finley fired up a serving run that took her team out to a 21-15 advantage in a four-point run. Paulsen killed a shot for game point at 24-19 and then the set ended on an in-the-net call against BC.
Butte Central gathered its collective self and square the night’s series with a win in game two. The Maroons never trailed and pulled away behind serving runs by Marthaller and Neumann. Their biggest lead was 21-13 after a Pica kill. A Stevensville hitting error gave the Maroons game point at 24-20. The Yellowjackets served wide two side outs later and the set ended.
A six-point serving run by McLaughlin helped set up the BC win in game three. It opened a 23-16 margin and found game point on a Cooney kill for 24-18. Paulsen pounded a kill for the Yellowjackets before the visitors sent a shot too far and the hitting error ended the set, giving Butte Central the game win.
Marthaller again burned the Yellowjackets in game four with a serving run that the BC girls rode to a 12-5 cushion. However, Vercruyssen served Stevensville back into the game and the score was eventually knotted at 15-all. Butte Central didn’t go ahead for good until Leary scored on a tip for a 23-22 edge. Sadie Harrington then registered two straight points, on a tip and then on a deep kill, for game point and then the game-ender.
Butte Central def. Stevensville 19-25, 25-22, 25-19, 25-22
Kills — Stevi 34 (Kyla Paulsen 11, McKinzie Zimmerman 10), BC 37 (Danee Leary 14, Mariah Cooney 11, Annie Ossello 6, Sadie Harrington 3, Teresa Piazzola 2, Danika Neumann 1). Assists — Stevi 31 (Tralyn Gardner 15, Megan Elam 10), BC 33 (Shannon McLaughlin 16, Taylor Marthaller 16, Piazzola 1). Aces — Stevi 6 ((Elam 2, Paulsen 1), BC 8 (McLaughlin 3, Marthaller 3, Neumann 1, Cassidy McGree 1). Digs — Stevi 48 (Carly Vercruyssen 13), BC 34 (Leary 18, Neumann 15, McLaughlin 6, C. McGree 4, Marthaller 3, Cooney 3, Ossello 2). Blocks — Stevi 6 (Zimmerman 6), BC 16 (Cooney 4, Ossello 3, Sierra Pica 3, Harrington 2, Lacey McGree 2, Piazzola 1, Leary 1).