Senior-laden Bulldogs score hits in volleyball scrimmage

Head coach Dale Burgman liked talking about the Butte High volleybal team’s hitting after it went on display Friday in the program’s annual intrasquad scrimmage in the Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gym at the school.
It looked improved. Caleigh Norman showed a polished stroke and Brittany Plum was in the right places most of the right times in allowing her instincts to take over at the net.
The two are among eight seniors on the Butte High roster. The 5-foot-11 Norman is the tallest player in the program.
Plum is a 5-8 middle blocker. The other seniors are 5-7 outside hitter Allie Metz, 5-8 middle blocker Brianna Collins, 5-8 outside hitter Bethany McLean, 5-9 outside hitter Heather Blastek, 5-4 setter McKaul Ori and 5-2 back-row specialist Amanda Spear.
Juniors Hannah Amtmann, 5-1 libero, and Mami Scherman, 5-7 middle blocker, round out the varsity roster. Amtmann missed the scrimmage while recovering from an illness, so Spear filled in at libero.
The good setting by Ori was as much as a key to the hitting and the varsity’s 25-13, 25-12, 15-11 sweep over the junior varsity as was the power of the front line.
“We hit the ball well, I thought,” Burgman said. “We made a concerted effort to hit better this year and the kids have worked hard over the summer to get better.”
With no 6-footers in the program, the fact that hitting might be a strength might be a surprise. However, Burgman noted that the girls compensated by training through dedicated offseason workouts and competing as much as they could in club volleyball, Big Sky State Games competition and so forth.The girls placed fifth out of 28 teams at a tourney in Spokane,
Senior Brianna O’Mara remains hampered by leg and knee problems and is not expected to play this fall, Burgman said. The 6-3 middle blocker has undergone multiple surgeries through her injury-plagued prep career.
“Caleigh Norman hit the ball very well,” Burgman said of the Friday display. “Brittany Plum has come so far since she was a freshman in the program. Both also have the ability to hit down over people.
“This is McKaul’s sport, too. She did a nice job moving the ball around.”
Burgman pointed to a second-game varsity run that included Plum scoring four of her side’s five last points on two blocks and two kills.
Ori is still adjusting to the Bulldogs’ new 5-1 alignment in which she will be the only setter, moving from the 4-2 the team played in recent seasons. Ori takes on hitting duties, as well, in the new look and such is where the adjustment is. The coach noted Ori was already flowing into that role toward the end of this first competition.
“Brianna Collins hit well today, too,” Burgman said, “and I know Heather can hit well. It will be nice having that left-hander up there at the net.
“I know we played the jayvees, but, overall, I thought we played pretty well. I think the chemistry is better this year. The girls need to loosen up a little bit. They’re tough on themselves.”
The coach also mentioned the play of junior varsity members Scherman, Abby Dodge and Mikayla McGivern in the scrimmage as highlights for the program. The younger players competed earlier in the day and Burgman said the freshman group is the best in 12 years at Butte High.
The Bulldogs will open their season on Sept. 5 with an Eastern AA Conference match at Billings West. A special night honoring the late Jim Patrick is set for the home opener on Sept. 9 versus Missoula Sentinel in non-conference play. Patrick, a longtime assistant coach in the program, died last winter. The remembrance will include the team wearing white tee shirts, which Patrick was known for, and a bag of popcorn being placed on Patrick’s old seat at the end of the bench.
The varsity was dominant, with a few hiccups, in the scrimmage. It took the first-game lead for good on hitting mistakes by the jayvees before Metz solidified it with an ace serve for an 8-3 edge. Three straight JV errors later spread the difference to 10 points, 23-13, and the varsity put the game away on an ace by Plum and a kill by Collins.
McLean reeled off a 10-point serving run in the second game as the varsity rushed to a 17-7 command. Collins killed three shots, including one tip, and McLean sizzled three aces in the spree. Game point came on a Blastek block for a 24-11 score. Plum ended the game with a kill two serves later.
The third game was a short set and was the most competitive of the three. A junior varsity hitting error, into the net, gave the varsity the lead 5-4, for good, but the difference was never ore than three points until the end. A Plum kill put up game point at 14-11 and then the jayvees fumbled the return shot attempt off the next serve as the scrimmage finished. 1 comment

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