By Bruce Sayler
The varsity was literally slow out of the gates in Friday’s Butte High Purple-and-White scrimmage held in the Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gym and Butte High School.
The Purple-clad varsity won by a 25-21, 25-14 tally, but not without some early scares thrown at the Bulldogs by their reserves.
“The first game, we were a little shaky, a little nervous,” new head coach Katrina Berg said. “But in the second game, the girls were excited. They were hitting their spots, swinging hard, jump serving and they were talking.”
The junior varsity led the first game until senior returnee Amanda Pickle served the varsity to a 20-18 edge from an 18-15 deficit with four straight aces in a five-point run. A shot hit wide by the jayvees ended the streak of aces and a long serve finished the run of varsity points. It was a good spree, however. The junior varsity was never ahead again. Sam Krzan served an ace to start a varsity two-point run capped by a Jenna Maroney kill. The kill brought set point. A good try by JV Mary Velock on a third-hit try traveled just inside along the JV net side and fell for a varsity point, ending the game.
“The JV did a great job digging up hits by Abby (Dodge) and other girls.”
Maroney broke an 11-all tie in the second game with a seven-point serving run peppered by three Dodge kills, the last an athletic backward tip as she passed along the net. Pickle also nailed a kill. Bethany McMahon seved four straight points — one an ace and two registered by Cqmeron Cassidy on a push and a block — to take the set to match point. The JVs delayed the end a serve before Pickle poached a kill off a 50-50 ball to end the match.
“They’re hustling and it’s a good thing,” Berg said. “There are not a lot of tall girls (on the Butte High roster) and we have to take the use of the ones we do have. They can jump, they can get up there. Even some of our ones without the height can get up there.”
The Bulldogs figure to be short by Class AA high school standards with the 5-foot-11 Dodge, a senior multisport standout, being the tallest. Junior Cameron Cassidy stands 5-9 and hit well up front in the scrimmage.
Team returnees also include 5-9 junior Alissa Bernhardt, 5-3 senior Sam Krzan and the 5-6 Pickle. Butte High fans may see freshman Kira Mortenson, a 6-1 middle blocker, progress quickly to the varsity. She played well Friday for the jayvees.
Berg takes the reins this year after spending recent seasons on the BHS staff headed by Dale Burgman. He retired from the position after last season. Berg is only the third head coach in the history of the 50-plus-year program, following John Ries and then Burgman onto the hot seat.
“We’ve had one week of practice,” Berg said. “There’s a lot to work on. We have to work on plays — running plays and shoots. We’re up now, so go for it.”
Some plays will be new, she hinted.
“You won’t know until you try it if you can do it or not,” Berg said. “I think (the Bulldogs) are all excited for the season. We’re excited and maybe, after getting this (scrimmage) out of the way, we’re ready to roll.”
Krzan and sophomore Bethany McMahon worked at setter for the Butte High varsity in the scrum, while junior Keeley Pochervina turned in a nice effort at libero. Many of the rallies lasted for several hits and returns.
Maroney and fellow junior Baylee Leary also pllayed well.
The jayvees’ efforts were sparked by Mortenson, sophomore Brittney Tierney, Velock and the serving of sophomore Brynlee Nielsen. Devin Amtmann, Sidney Christie and hard hitter Gabby Leyba also helped their team give the varsity a challenge.
The Bulldogs will open their varsity season on Tuesday, Aug. 30 with a non-conference match at Missoula Sentinel. Their home opener is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 6 against Helena High in another non-league test.