By Bruce Sayler
Indeed, Missoula Sentinel played better.
The Butte High girls played some of their best volleyball of the season on Thursday night and it wasn’t enough to defeat Sentinel.
“They’re No. 1 in our conference and undefeated (in the Western AA Conference) for a reason,” Butte High head coach Shane Jorgensen said after his team suffered the 25-19, 25-19, 25-12 loss in the Butte Civic Center. “They’re well-coached and they play hard. That’s not to say we didn’t play hard, either. Serving is a big part of our game and they pass so well, they knocked us out of what we do.”
The Spartans are also very tall and deeply athletically talented. Eight of the 11 girls listed on the Sentinel varsity roster stand 5-foot-10 to 6-foot-2. Four are 6-feet or taller.
Still, Butte High forced Sentinel into the match’s first timeout.
Bulldog libero Jordyn Bolton fired an ace serve for the first point of the match and launched Butte High toward a 7-1 lead. Kennedi McMahon’s block, Mollee Conlan’s tip and Olivia Quinn’s ace pressured the Spartans into three straight hitting errors. Sentinel head coach Kasey Arceniega wanted to talk to her team.
“It was fantastic the way we started,” Jorgensen said. “Probably the best start we’ve had all year. I’m proud of (the Bulldogs) for making that team take a timeout. That’s very surprising for us. The first two games, I thought we played well.”
After the timeout, the Spartans roared back. Serving runs by 6-1 Quincy Frohlich and 5-2 Jayden Johnston helped Sentinel to a 13-11 edge. They caught up with Butte High at 11-all on a Bulldog net violation and went ahead on a kill by 5-11 senior setter Paige Sawyer.
Butte High stayed in the contest, though, and tied the score once at 14-all on a kill by McMahon. Another Frohlich kill put Sentinel ahead for good. Set point came at 24-17 on a tip by 5-10 senior Hannah Hart. The Bulldogs dodged the game-ender on two serves before Hart killed a shot for the set win.
The Spartans led through the second set after a Frohlich kill broke a 2-all knot. Butte High stayed close and trailed only 21-19 late in the set after a tip by 6-3 senior Ashley Olson. Two Bulldog hitting errors followed. Six-two junior Olivia Huntsinger killed a floater for Sentinel’s set point. Then, 5-11 senior Kodi Fraser blistered an ace for the win.
“To come out and play well, we know what our team did,” Jorgensen said, alluding to the show of hanging in against a very good team. “There was some frustration to play that well and still be down 0-2 after two games. You wonder what to do next. We had to adjust and, sometimes, adjustments just don’t work.
“We were a little flat for some reason. I don’t know, just not the bouncy, (spirited) up our girls usually have. Maybe it was the change in the weather.”
Temperatures and outdoor conditions have been more wintry than summery this week in Butte, for the first time since school started a little more than a month ago.
Sentinel was dominant in the third game. The Spartans led 9-1 after serving runs by Frohlich and libero Raia Chase. The two combined for three aces over the first nine points while Fraser and 6-0 senior Madison Handley led the hitting from up front.
An ace by 5-10 junior Alexis Eggert took Sentinel to a 10-point spread, 19-9. A stuff by Fraser notched match point at 24-12. A Butte shot sailed long and the match ended.
“Hopefully, the next time we see them will be in the divisional tournament – in a winners’ round game,” Jorgensen said.
The win put the Spartans at 10-0 I conference matches and 16-4 overall. The Bulldogs are 3-7 and 5-15.
Sentinel leaders were Frohlich with three aces and eight kills, Sawyer with 18 assists and three blocks, and Chase with 19 digs.
Olson had eight kills and Brooke McGrath six for Butte High. Katie Keller and Quinn each put up 10 assists. McGrath had nine digs and Bolton registered eight. Laura Rosenleaf and Olson each fenced a block.
The Bulldogs will be home on Tuesday to play Missoula Hellgate in their next match.
“It will be Senior Night, Tuesday,” Jorgensen said. “It will be an emotional night.”
Missoula Sentinel def. Butte High 25-19, 25-19, 25-12.
KILLS – Sentinel 33 (Quincy Frohlich 8), Butte 22 (Ashley Olson 8, Brooke McGrath 6, Laura Rosenleaf 4, Teagan Kennis 2, Kennedi McMahon 2). ASSISTS – Sentinel 22 (Paige Sawyer 18), Butte 22 (Olivia Quinn 10, Katie Keller 10, Jordyn Bolton 1, Olson 1). ACES – Sentinel 9 (Frohlich 3), Butte 4 (Bolton 1, Mollee Conlan 1, Quinn 1, Keller 1). DIGS – Sentinel 50 (Raia Chase 19), Butte1 (McGrath 9, Bolton 8, Conlan 6, Quinn 3, Joscelyn Cleveland 3, Olson 3, Keller 3, McMahon 3, Rosenleaf 2, Kennis 1) 4. BLOCKS – Sentinel 6 (Sawyer 3), Butte 2 (Rosenleaf 1, Olson 1).