Butte High experienced some first-match problems in its first volleyball match of the season Friday. The biggest one was that opponent Billings Skyview had already played a pair of contests.
Skyview defeated the Bulldogs 27-25, 25-23, 24-26, 25-11 in the Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gym at Butte High School. The match was the Eastern AA Conference opener for both teams.
Despite it having to be a shakeout game, a first look for Butte Highs players and coaches, the Bulldogs were plenty competitive.
“They were all close games,“ Butte High head coach Dale Burgman said, seeing the positive. “We probably should have won the first game, we could’ve won the second and we did win the third. We disappeared in the fourth when we didn’t do anything right.“
The coach also liked the play of senior Hattie Thatcher and junior Sammy McGree, while all the others, too, probably had more good moments than unfortunate ones.
“Sammy played very, very well and was as consistent a performer as anyone,“ Burgman said. “Hattie showed a lot of leadership, always trying to keep the girls up. If I gave out game balls, Sammy and Hattie would get those.“
Skyview lost twice, at Helena Capital and Helena High, Class AA non-conference matches last weekend. In-match comfort as teammates showed for the Falcons, especially in more difficult timing techniques as in serve receive and passing.
Twin sisters Aubree and Breanna Mason were especially strong at the net and at midcourt for Skyview. Aubree Mason led in kills with 16 and shared the team digs lead with libero Taylor Burris at eight apiece. Other Falcon leaders were Hailey Copinga with six blocks and two ace serves, and Breanna Mason with 36 assists
“Skyview’s serve-receive is ridiculous,“ Burgman said. “They went threes to their setter all night. That helped them immensely, the perfect pass to their setter. We tried to hit to where they couldn’t do that, not let their setters get that good of a pass. You have to pound the ball on Skyview to beat them because they pass so well.“
Butte High leaders were Jessie Buckley with two aces, McKaul Ori 18 assists, Baylee Thatcher 12 kills, McGree 13 digs and Carlie Haeffner three blocks.
Aubree Mason’s two kills to end the first game brought Skyview all the way back from an 8-2 deficit for the 27-25 win. A McGree kill had snared the 8-2 difference for Butte High early in the set.Buckley served two aces that helped float the run.
The Falcons worked back and found a hot serving hand in Whitney Pomroy, who took her team from trailing 23-19 to a 24-23 game-point edge. Butte High tied on a Skyview hitting error before a kill by Baylee Thatcher a tip by Breanna Mason forged a 25-all deadlock. Aubree Mason then killed a shot to break the tie and gain serve for Copinga, then spiked home the game-winner.
The second game was tight all the way with the score still tied at 23-all before a Bulldog hitting error gave the Falcons game point. Then, Bekah Ellis blasted the kill for the Falcon set win.
Butte High trailed most of the third game, finally surging at the end with Ori serving. A Haeffner kill and Ori serves helped the Bulldogs to a 24-23 edge after they were behind by 18-11 fairly late in the game. An Ellis kill re-tied the score before a Baylee Thatcher tip point broke the deadlock for the Bulldogs. A Falcon hitting miscue then ended the game.
“Hattie and Sammy did a good job of keeping the girls fired up when it was 18-11,“ Burgman said. “And in that game, we did what we’re supposed to do at the net. Our passes and sets were better.“
Copinga served Skyview out to a big lead in the fourth game and the Falcons’ advantage was 13-4 about midway through the set. A Copinga kill brought game point at 24-8 before the Bulldogs gathered a mini-surge on scoring hits by Baylee Thatcher and Haeffner. Finally, a dig by Pomroy of a Butte High smash soared back over the net and landed in an unreachable spot, ending the match.
The Bulldogs are to play Billings West on Saturday at 3 p.m. in an Eastern AA Conference match in the Richardson Gym.
Billings Skyview def. Butte High 27-25, 25-23, 24-26, 25-11
Kills — Skyview 50 (Aubree Mason 16, Bekah Ellis 13), Butte High 38 (Baylee Thatcher 12, Carlie Haeffner 8, Jessie Buckley 7, Brianna O’Mara 4, Sammy McGree 3, Rachel Anderson 3, Hattie Thatcher 1). Aces — Skyview 5 (Hailey Copinga 2), Butte High 3 (Buckley 2, H. Thatcher 1). Assists — Skyview 39 (Breanna Mason 36), Butte High 29 (McKaul Ori 18, B. Thatcher 11). Digs — Skyview 36 (A. Mason 8, T. Burris 8), Butte High 32 (McGree 13, H. Thatcher 7, Buckley 7, B. Thatcher 1, Haeffner 1, Anderson 1, Haley Henderson 1, Ori 1). Blocks — Skyview 7 (Copinga 6, Whitney Pomroy 4), Butte High 6 (Haeffner 3, Anderson 2, O’Mara 1).