West spikers rule AA all-stars

Western AA was dominant with its height advantage in beating an Eastern AA squad that was somewhat inexperienced.

The contest was an all-star volleyball match Saturday night and featured senior standouts from Montana’s Class AA programs. The West victory came in three games — 25-9. 25-17, 25-16 — in the Ross J.. Richardson Memorial Gym at Butte High School.

Cassie Krueger of Kalispell Flathead notched seven kills and a block to lead the West sweep. Julia Anderson of Helena Capital totaled six kills and four blocks. Tiffany Marks of Kalispell Glacier and Emily Russell of Flathead sizzled two aces each.

East team leaders included Aubrey Beaumont of Great Falls High with five kills and an ace, and Whitney Pomroy of Billings Skyview with four kills and two blocks.

Butte High seniors Hattie Thatcher and Carlie Haeffner were named to the team. Thatcher saw extensive action at libero while Haeffner sat out with an ankle sprain.

Because of schedule conflicts, Eastern AA was short-handed at some positions, particularly outside hitter where Trae Roderick of Bozeman was the only regular at the spot. Girls who starred at other positions were therefore pressed into rotating through the outside power roles.

“It was a really fun experience,” Thatcher, likely having played her last competitive volleyball match, said. “It was nice playing with the different girls from around the state. We learned different floor positions and got to know each other after starting out kind of shy before going to lunch (Saturday).”

Butte High head coach Dale Burgman organized the event and also coached the East team. Advantage Butte, the Metals Sports Bar and Grill, the Comfort Inn, the Butte volleyball officials pool and Butte High School administration and staff backed his efforts in bringing the all-star match to The Mining City a fourth straight year, he said.

Flathead coach Leon Wilcox guided the West team.

Plans now are to hold the match the Thursday after the state tournament. Burgman said, adding that discussion is being held about possibly including top players from Classes A, B and C in the competition in future years.

Savannah Smith of Capital scored the first point of the match on a kill and then served the next 14 as Western AA ran out ahead 15-0. A hitting error then put up a point for the West.

Another Smith kill, later, took the Westsiders to game point at 24-9 before Russell ended the set with a service ace.

Serving runs by Jamie Flink of Missoula Sentinel and Marks buoyed the Western AA surges in the second game. The West took the lead for good at 3-2 on a Krueger kill. After Marks’ run the difference was 16-5. Smith tipped in a softy for game point at 24-13. The East fought off the loss for four serves until Anderson patted down a tip to end the set.

The Eastern AA found a little more success early in the third game and led  7-6 following a Beaumont serving run. The West, though, took over for good as Flink served  and Anderson posted a go-ahead block.  Western AA steadily built on the lead, reaching game point at 24-16 on an Eastern AA serving error. An Anderson kill then finished the match.

Official match statistics were unavailable. Stats compiled unofficially follow:

KILLS — West 26 (Cassie Krueger 7. Julia Anderson 6, Savannah Smith 5, Tiffany Marks 3, Rachel Chery 2, Emily Russell 1, Maddie McCarthy 1, Aran Hines 1), East 21 (Aubrey Beaumont 5, Whitney Pomroy 4, Vanessa Newman 4, Trae Roderick 3, Kennedy Carpenter 2, Rachel Astrup 2, Jessica Haley 1). ACES — West 5 (Marks 2, Russell 2, Jamie Flink 1), East 2 (Beaumont 1, Haley 1). BLOCKS — West 9 (Anderson 4, Marks 1, Krueger 1, Flink 1, Chery 1, Hines 1), East 2 (Pomroy 2).