West dodges Butte High rally

Billings West’s cakewalk turned to hardtack on Saturday in a good, entertaining Class AA high school girls’ volleyball match.

The Golden Bears came out the winners, 25-17, 25-14, 19-25, 19-25, 15-9, but not without some concerns and worries in the Eastern Conference match played at the Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gym in Butte High School.

Billings West looked good and in synch for most of the match. The Bulldogs scrapped and played with heart. It made for good competition.

“We scrapped really well,” Butte High head coach Dale Burgman said. “Games three and four might’ve been the best at the net since I’ve been here.:

Burgman was happy with a lot of facets and players. The setting of McKaul Ori and Baylee Thatcher drew compliments as the match progressed while the block was tough, 14 as a team, and led by Carlie Haeffner and the play of both Rachel Anderson and Brianna O’Mara up front. Hattie Thatcher and Sammy McGree on the back two were, again, good, and junior Jessie Buckley put foreth a strong all-around game.

“Carlie had a great game,” the coach said. “She played tough defense and everyone else, too, had their moments. Our blocking was better, so we’ll have to keep building on that.

“Consistency is the key. I thought we served a lot stronger and a lot smarter. Both teams had some nice rallies.”

Billings West’s strength was being able to go to a bevy of powerful hitters/ K.C. Christensen and Sydney Lich, in particular, packed accurate wallops while Christine Wing and Sadie Lehenbauer both up the good sets. Katie Zink was another beneficiary of such placement and cashed in for big hits.

Further bonding as a team by the Bulldogs was another element Burgman noted as important in Saturday’s performance.

“The girls were ready to play and they did a nice job of picking each other up,” he said. “All are tougher on themselves than they are on each other.”

Golden  Bear leaders were Lehenbauer with five aces, Christensen with six blocks and 17 kills, Tatum Meyer with 31 digs, Wing 30 assists and Lich with 16 kills. The win squared West at 1-1 in league and overall play.

Butte High, 0-2 in both season and Eastern AA play was led by Hattie Thatcher with two aces and 16 digs, O’Mara with 5 ½ blocks, Ori with 19 assists and Haeffner with 13  kills.

Butte High went down swinging, however. The Bulldogs, after coming back from a 2-0 game deficit, faced a 14-6 match point  in the fifth set. McGree served Butte High for three points as Buckley tallied a point on a hit to the midcourt,  O’Mara and Anderson tallied on a combined block and Buckley tipped in a point. It took an off-balance set by Wing and shot by Christensen that caromed off a Bulldog player to end the match.

Butte High might have gotten a little overanxious in the first game before falling 25-17. The Bulldogs rallied strongly behind a Hattie Thatcher serving run and good net play by the other senior co-captain, Haeffner. The run cut the Bulldog deficit to 13-12. Butte High took a lead with  Ori servfing and went ahead 16-14 after a four-hit call against the Golden Bears. A 17-17 knot was  broken when Lich and Christensen  combined on a block.  Zink served out. Lich’s kill ended the game.

An ace serve by Wing capped the second game. The Golden Bears led throughout, first grabbing a 3-0 edge on two Butte High mistakes and a Christensen kill. Another Christensen kill brought on game point for the Wing ace.

A mis-serve that tangled in the net by Billings West put the Bulldogs ahead to stay in the third game. Butte High took the 11-10 advantage and got an ace from Ori to cap a four-point run that also included a Haeffner kill to open a 14-10 margin. The Bulldogs maintained the difference and reached game point, 24-18, on a tip by Buckley on her own block, dropping the ball just on the Billings West side of the net. A side-out later, Haeffner slammed a kill set by Baylee Thatcher.

Butte High won again 25-19 in game four. A Haeffner block created game point at 24-19 and then a Billings West hitter tangled her shot in the net to finish the set. It was a tight game most of the way. The Bulldogs trailed by 13-6 after Zink killed a shot for the Golden Bears. Butte High took back the lead at 16-15 as  O’Mara notched a kill in the middle of a Haeffner serving run.

Butte High will be home against Missoula Sentinel on Tuesday evening in a non-conference match.

Billings West def. Butte High 25-17, 25-14, 19-25, 19-25, 15-9

Kills — Billings West 50 (K.C. Christensen 17, Sydney Lich 16), Butte High 34 (Carlie Haeffner, Baylee Thatcher 5, Brianna O’Mara 5, Jessie Buckley 5, Sammy McGree 4, Hattie Thatcher 1, Rachel Anderson 1). Assists — Billings West 48 (Christine Wing 30, Sadie Lehenbauer 17), Butte High 34 (McKaul Orp 19, B. Thatcher 14, Haeffner 1). Aces — Billings West 12 (Lehenbauer 5, Wing 4),  Butte High 3 (H. Thatcher 2, Buckley 1). Digs — Billings West 103 (Tatum Meyer 31, Lich 28), Butte High 57 (H. Thatcher 16, Buckley 12, McGree 12, Ori 9, B. Thatcher 4, Haeffner 3, Anderson 1). Blocks — Billings West 7 (Christensen 6, Lich 3), Butte High 14 (O’Mara 5.5, B. Thatcher 4, Haeffner 3, Buckley .5).