By Bruce Sayler
Head coach Becky Hancock didn’t want to call it rust, but Butte Central’s pandemic-caused recent inactivity likely played a large part in the Maroons’ volleyball loss to Stevensville Saturday.
Stevensville’s prowess was, of course, a factor, too.
The Yellowjackets outlasted BC 22-25, 25-21, 25-22, 16-25, 15-13 in a Western A Conference match played at the Maroon Activities Center. The match was the first for the Maroons since they went to Livingston to beat the Rangers in five sets on Sept. 10. BC opened the season with a five-set home loss to Anaconda two nights earlier.
Hancock said the two-week quarantine because of a positive Covid-19 test kept the BC players out of the gym for practice, as well. Butte Central’s only volleyball practice held over the idle time occurred on Friday.
“I think, more than anything, our girls were tired,” Hancock said, referring to the gruel of the five-set match, the team’s third in as many matches played this year. “We had to make some adjustments and I thought we played well through our adjustments. We just didn’t finish.”
The Maroons played without veteran libero Sophia Burton, who was unavailable for the match, Hancock said.
Sofee Thatcher slid into her spot and responded with 20 digs. However, the accompanying adjustments were forced into use without much rehearsal. Stevensville showed to be a quality opponent, no matter what the floor plan could be.
“It’s just hard to get everybody going again,” Hancock said. “But, I thought we were very capable with the adjustments we did. We got caught in one bad rotation where we were giving Stevensville eight points when we’d have been up by then. Stevensville played a great game.”
“I thought we played great, too. Kudos to our girls.”
Stevensville’s win was sparked by a player off the bench. Berkley Robinson didn’t appear in the match until the fifth set and she seized the chance to fire four ace serves after nailing a kill to inspire her team. She tied the score at 4-all with her second ace during a seven-point run that sent the Yellowjackets to a 9-5 advantage.
Thatcher served a four-point run in response. Avery Kelly smashed two kills to begin the surge and one by freshman Ella Moodry knotted the score at 9-all. The teams played point-for-point to a 13-all tie. Tilli Danczyk fenced a block that gave the Yellowjackets match point. Hendrickson served a deep ace to staple down the victory.
“We did what we needed to,” Hancock said. “It just wasn’t in our favor, tonight. We were up in both the third and fourth sets, but didn’t finish. We had some awesome runs.”
The coach acknowledged the Stevensville block was pretty good and stopped or disrupted several strong attempts by Butte Central hitters.
The first set was close throughout with two three-point Maroon leads being the largest gaps. Setter Maci Reopelle tapped a fake set in for set point at 24-23 to snap a tie, then a Stevensville hit tangled in the net to finish the set.
The BC girls owned a 20-15 lead after a Marissa Anderson kill in the second game. The Yellowjackets caught up at 20-all on a Danczyk block and three BC errors. A Hendrickson kill broke the knot, then aces by Hendrickson scored set point and the winner.
Butte Central broke out to a 6-0 lead behind the serving of Reopelle to start the third set. Kennedy Praast held serve for a similar Stevensville run and the teams were soon even at 9-all. The Maroons, though, nabbed the lead on another Anderson kill. Yet another moment later stretched the margin to 17-12. With BC leading 19-12, Hendrickson stepped to the serving line. She led her team to a 19-all tie, nailing an ace for the tying point. Even play followed before Butte Central suffered a pair of hitting mistakes and fell behind 23-21. Aliyah Anderson knocked in a kill for Stevensville set point. A Yellowjacket shot sailed wide, but then one by a Maroon did, too, ending the set.
The BC girls regrouped and put forth a strong fourth game. Amira Bolton served her team to a 6-0 start, landing three aces in the streak. Butte Central built on the advantage steadily and used a Kelly ace and two Bolton kills to open a 20-9 command. Anderson spiked a shot for set point at 24-14. Three serves later, Moody blistered a kill to win the set and tie the match score at two wins apiece, bringing on the tiebreaker.
Hendrickson starred for Stevensville with 11 kills and four aces. Aliyah Anderson and Danczyk each posted six blocks as the team was credited with 31 for the match.
Butte Central leaders included Thatcher and her 20 digs, Kelly with 13 kills and six blocks, Reopelle with 30 assists and Bolton with five aces.
The Maroons are 1-2 on the season and 0-1 in conference play. They are to play at Hamilton on Tuesday I a Western A match.
Stevensville def. Butte Central 23-25, 25-21, 25-22, 16-25, 15-13
KILLS – Stevi 36 (Ella Hendrickson 11, Kennedy Praast 7, Daphne Engel 7), BC 35 (Avery Kelly 13, Marissa Anderson 9, Ella Moodry 8, Amira Bolton 5). ASSISTS – Stevi 34 (Madison Weber 31, Engel 3), BC 34 (Maci Reopelle 30, M. Anderson 2, Kelly 1, Mati McGree 1). ACES – Stevi 10 (Hendrickson 4), BC 11 (Bolton 5, Delaney Hasquet 2, Reopelle 2, Kelly 1, M. Anderson 1). DIGS – Stevi 76 (Engel 23, Weber 12, Kelti Wandler 12), BC 69 (Sofee Thatcher 20, Reopelle 16, M. Anderson 11, Bolton 10, Hasquet 7, Kelly 4, Moodry 1). BLOCKS – Stevi 31 (Aliyah Anderson 6, Tilli Danczyk 6), BC 8 (Kelly 6, McGree 1, Moodry 1).