By Bruce Sayler
They’re killers, those girls on the Helena High volleyball team.
The Bengals walloped 34 kills and sizzled 10 ace serves as they swept Butte High 25-16, 25-10, 25-ll Monday night in a regular-season ending Western AA Conference high school girls’ volleyball match played in the Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gym.
Both teams will be in the field of the Western AA Divisional tournament to be played Thursday through Saturday in the Butte Civic Center. Butte High will open with a 3 p.m. match on Thursday against Flathead High of Kalispell, Shane Jorgensen, head coach of the Bulldogs, said.
Helena High looked in peak form Monday playing a makeup contest originally scheduled for last Thursday, but was postponed because of poor travel conditions caused by a snowstorm.
“They’re big and they’re well-coached and they’re athletic,” Jorgensen said. “And, they’re big. Did I happen to mention that they’re big?”
The Bengals list four players on their roster who stand 6-foot to 6-2 and another who is 5-11. Makenzie Jackson, a 6-2 senior, and Birdie Heuiser, a 6-2 junior, hammered 11 kills each and 6-1 junior Chloe Sanders could not have been too far behind them. She took over the end of set two. Ella McCarthy, a 6-0 sophomore, led the defense at the net that produced seven blocks.
“That’s one of the troubles,” Jorgensen said. “They’re not all seniors. They’ll be reloading next year.
“They’re a fun team to watch. They easily have half a dozen college prospects.”
Butte High honored players and an official on Senior Night in closing the regular season. Senior players Kenzie Hansen, Maddie Luedtke, Taylor Drakos and Mickenzie McIntyre and their families were honored in a pre-match ceremony.
Tom Roberts, a co-founder of competitive girls’ league volleyball in Butte and a 43-year veteran official of college and high school matches, was honored for his dedication and work in a presentation held between the second and third sets. It included a tribute written by fellow official and former Montana Tech player and coach Marilyn Tobin.
“(The Bengals) serve the ball like we do,” Jorgensen said. “That’s usually our strength and we’re not used to seeing serves like ours coming at us. It being Senior Night didn’t help. With all the emotion, it’s a distraction. I think I would like to move it to midseason next season.”
The first halves of the first two sets were competitive. Butte High kept in against the Bengals. The first set saw Helena High clinging to an 11-10 edge after a kill by Bulldog Brityn Stewart. The Bengals slowly inched ahead farther as two kills by Sanders and one by Jackson were answered by one from McIntyre. A rash of miscues then bogged Butte High and Helena High had spread its margin to 21-15 after a Heuiser kill. Butte High got a point back when a Bengal serve traveled over the end line.
However, Helena High sealed the set win with a Heuiser tip, a Sanders kill and two aces served by Annika Nehring.
Butte High had a 5-4 edge in the second set after a kill by Luedtke. However, Jackson spiked to tie the score and the Bulldogs suffered two straight errors. The Bengals, though, didn’t break away until Jackson toed the service lead with her team ahead by only a point, 8-7.
She fired two aces, then Heuiser belted a kill. A Butte High return sailed long and the Bengals were ahead by 13-7. They built on the gap. Nehring, a couple side-outs later, served five consecutive points as her ace followed blocks by Malena Onespot-Danforth and Heuiser and preceded kills by Sanders and Heuiser. Helena High owned a 19-10 command when Heuiser started her service round and served out the set. Sanders slammed two kills, stuffed on a block, then killed again. Onespot-Danforth posted another block for set point and then Sanders teamed with McCarthy on the set-ender block.
The Bengals dominated the third set.
“The girls ran into a wall and we couldn’t get around it,” Jorgensen said. “We threw everything at them. You can’t make an error because they’ll stuff it down your throat. If we’d played error-free I don’t think we could’ve gotten a win tonight.
“Our first two sets were competitive. We had girls who played really well, too. But, on that last (set), when you’re down by two sets and have been getting beat by 12 or 15 points, the third set is hard to come out and play competitive ball.”
The Bengals grabbed a 5-3 lead and Sanders then served 10 points in a row. The run included blocks by McCarthy and Nehring, two kills by Jackson and a pair of Sanders aces to go with three Butte High errors. Match point arrived at 24-9 on a Butte High return than missed long. The Bengals committed an error and then McIntyre whistled an ace before the match ended on a serve that flew past the end line.
“It didn’t help that we didn’t make our adjustments,” Jorgensen said. “Now, we have two days in which to get ready for the divisional tournament.”
Stewart led Butte High with four of the team’s 12 kills. Jaycee Cleveland, Luedtke, Stewart and McIntyre each had an ace. Cleveland had five of the squad’s eight assists, Luedtke and Stewart each fenced up a block and Stewart scooped six digs.
Helena High def. Butte High 25-16, 25-10, 25-11.
KILLS – Helena 34 (Makenzie Jackson 11, Birdie Heuiser 11), Butte 12 (Brityn Stewart 4, Maddie Luedtke 3, Jaycee Cleveland 2, Mickenzie McIntyre 2, Peyton Trabert 1). ASSISTS – Helena 20 (Malena Onespot-Danforth 17), Butte 8 (Cleveland 5, Cadence Graham 2, Kenzie Hansen 1). ACES – Helena 10 (Chloe Sanders 4), Butte 4 (Cleveland 1, Luedtke 1, Stewart 1, McIntyre 1). DIGS – Helena 21 (Annika Nehring 8), Butte 23 (Stewart 6, Cleveland 5, Graham 3, Taylor Drakos 3, Hansen 2, Luedtke 2, McIntyre 2). BLOCKS – Helena 7 (Ella McCarthy 3), Butte 2 (Luedtke 1, Stewart 1).