Stevensville’s veteran lineup of heavy hitters had just a little too much power for the youthful Butte Central volleyball team Thursday night. The free-hitting Yellowjackets sprayed enough aces and splattered plenty of kills to pick up a 25-21, 25-20, 19-25, 25-18 victory over the Maroons in a Southwestern A Conference match played in the Maroon Activities Center.
Stevensville let fly with 58 kills, 19 of them by Kyla Paulsen, and totaled seven aces. The Yellowjackets’ defense at the net was shown in 11 blocks.
The BC girls’ kill total trailed Stevensville’s by 34, but Butte Central held ground up front with 13 blocks, led by the five apiece from Lacey McGree and Sadie Harrington.
“Stevensville hit’s the ball pretty well,“ Kaila Minehan, head coach of the Maroons, acknowledged. “They have some big guns.“
The coach was tantalized by the competitiveness her team displayed. The BC players seemed just a bump, block, set or shot away from taking over the match on numerous occasions. However, the Yellowjackets’ experience and talent quashed the uprisings.
“We’re so close,“ Minehan said. “That third game was kind of what we’re looking for. We were finding ways to score and we hit the ball. Teresa (Piazzola) hit the ball really hard that game.
“We got the lead in that game and stayed on top of it, which is what we need to do better.“
Maintaining such a level of play has been a challenge and one that is not often emulated in practice, Minehan lamented.
“I’ve yet to see us come out fully intense from beginning all the way to the end,“ she said. “Part of it is practice. We haven’t had super-intense practices. We have to find a way to keep our intensity up in our drills, even the ones that (are more mundane and less interesting).“
Butte Central is searching for more power in its attack and more contributions to such from more team members. Serving has been a strength, however. Senior Erin Antonioli registered four aces Thursday night as the Maroons totaled eight overall.
“It seemed that whenever we made a run to go ahead or stay ahead, Erin was back behind the line,“ Minehan said.
Piazzola led BC hitters with 11 kills and libero Cassidy McGree notched a team-high 17 digs. Freshman setter Emily St. John put up 24 assists. Yellowjacket leaders included Katie Malachinski and MacKenzie Zimmerman with eight blocks apiece, Carly Vercruyssen with 13 digs, and Lizzy Whitesell and Megan Finley with three aces each.
A five-point service run by Paulsen opened an 11-4 Stevensville spread in the first game and the Yellowjackets held on for the 25-21 win. Butte Central did close to within 18-15 on an Antonioli ace and a Stevensville hitting error. The Maroons could not draw any closer than the three-point difference. Game point arrived at 24-18 on a double-hit call against BC. Butte Central fought off the last point, though, until a serve by the Maroons traveled past the end line.
The BC girls grabbed the early lead in game two as Ashley Marthaller served them ahead to 9-4. Many of the Butte Central points came on Yellowjacket mistakes, but big hits by Sierra Pica, Piazzola and Lacey McGree also buoyed the Maroons. Stevensville bounced back with a charge that was led by Finley and Paulsen, and featured six aces, including a pair of especially difficult to handle net-catchers by Whitesell. The Yellowjackets caught BC at 16-all on a Zimmerman kill. Finley was in the middle of a four-point serving run as Stevensville took the lead for good. A double-hit ruling against Butte Central gave the Yellowjackets game point at 24-18. The Maroons served a try too far three starts later and Stevensville owned the 25-20 set win.
Cassidy McGree’s string of two ace serves and another tough-to-manipulate offering ignited the BC girls in the third game. Butte Central took a 14-11 edge on the run and stayed ahead the rest of the game. Antonioli zeroed in an ace and tacked on points via a Stevensville miscue and a Piazzola smash. Another Yellowjacket error put the Maroons at game point, 24-16. Stevensville held on for three more serves before committing s double-hit and BC winning a 25-19 set.
Whatever momentum Butte Central gained in the third-game evaporated in the fourth. Finley reeled off eight points on a serving run that saw Paulsen notch half of them on kills, including the poaching of a pair of return floaters. The run was ended by a Harrington block, but the Yellowjackets had achieved a 19-15 advantage. The Maroons couldn’t get any closer than within three points. Another Paulsen kill put game point at 24-17. Lacey McGree staved off the match-ender with a block for BC before Stevensville came out the winner on a kill by Cambrea Beller.
The BC team will play at Corvallis on Saturday in another Southwestern A Conference test.
Stevensville def., Butte Central 25-21, 25-20, 19-25, 25-18.
Kills — Stevensville 58 (Kyla Paulsen 19), Butte Central 24 (Teresa Piazzola 11, Shawnee Hjelt 4, Sadie Harrington 4, Sierra Pica 3, Lacey McGree2). Assists — Stevensville 33 (Megan Elam 18), Butte Central 24 (Emily St. John 24). Aces — Stevensville 7 (Lizzy Whitesell 3, Megan Finley 3), Butte Central 8 (Erin Antonioli 4, Cassidy McGree 2, Erin McGeehan 1, Ashley Marthaller 1). Digs — Stevensville 49 (Carly Vercruyssen 13), Butte Central 54 (C. McGree 17, Hjelt 10, Marthaller 8, St. John 7, McGeehan 3, Piazzola 3, Pica 3, Antonioli 1, Harrington 1, LL. McgREE 1). Blocks — Stevensville 11 (Katie Malachinski 8, MacKenzie Zimmerman 8), Butte Central 13 (Harrington 5, L. McGree 5, Pica 2, Piazzola 1).