Yellowjackets swarm Butte Central spikers

By Bruce Sayler

The Maroon Activities Center (MAC) was a buzz for volleyball Saturday and that wasn’t a good thing for the Butte Central Maroons.

They felt the sting of the Stevensville Yellowjackets in a regular season-ending loss that dampened the BC Senior Night festivities. Stevensville won in four games by scores of 25-19, 25-17, 24-26, 25-19.

“I thought we were out of our system a lot, tonight,” Butte Central head coach Becky Hancock said. “I didn’t see ‘it’ tonight. I couldn’t feel ‘it’. We were out of sync in hitting and defensively. Our serving was there for awhile, but then it was down, too.”

It was the last regular-season home appearance for Maroon seniors Olivia Bolton, Kassidy Criscuolo, Chelsey McGree, Zoe Sullivan and Megan Michelotti. Should BC advance from the Southwestern A District tournament next Friday and Saturday in Frenchtown, Butte Central will be in the field for the Western A Divisional the following weekend at the MAC.

Stevensville uses a quick offense for its attack and Hancock said the style may have caught Butte Central flat-footed too many times.

“We were a little late on everything,” Hancock said. “We never got jump-started.  “She (Stevi head coach Yvette Larson) runs a quick offense, but I thought we cut down on that. We didn’t play our game, overall.”

Stevensville’s varsity roster showed two seniors, one sophomore and nine juniors. The Yellowjackets seem to be an emerging force in the Southwestern A.

Butte Central and Stevi traded possessions, both short and multi-served, in the opening minutes before junior Mikayla Newman’s kill broke a 6-all tie and put Stevensville ahead for good in the first set. Junior Quinn Larson and sophomore Cassi Kopsa punched out four- and five-point serving runs as the Yellowjackets built their lead to 17-9. They made it a 10-point margin at 23-13 on a kill by senior Mikayla Hall. Two serves later, Hall notched game point on a kill and then junior Prestley Robinson downed a kill for the set win.

The second game was much of the same. Kopsa reeled off an eight-point run highlighted by two Hall kills for a 15-5 Stevensville command. The Yellowjackets methodically progressed to the set end, reaching set point on a Robinson kill for 24-16, then committing a four-hit violation before finishing with a kill by senior Sydney Torrey.

The Maroons’ best display of the day followed. They fought off early dismissal and forced a fourth game with a late rally in the third set.

Kopsa served Stevi out ahead 8-0, firing two aces and getting two kills from junior Angel Richards and one from Robinson in the run. The BC girls fell no further behind and began chipping away at their deficit. Freshman Amira Bolton’s serving run cut the margin to 15-12. Her ace and a Michelotti block combined with Stevensville’s errors for the surge.

However, Butte Central didn’t catch up completely until set point. Stevensville got there first on a BC hitting error that made the difference 24-21. The Yellowjackets gave up a point on a service error that put sophomore Cassidy Strizic at the serve for Butte Central. A kill by Criscuolo cut the margin to a point and then Strizic aced a served for the 24-all knot. McGree then stuffed a Stevi shot to gain the Maroons the lead before Olivia Bolton set a kill shot Criscuolo executed for the set win.

“I’ve seen improvements every game and tonight our block was better,” Hancock said. “That third game, I finally saw a spark after we were down 2-0 (in games). We showed a lot of fight and it was good to see in pulling out a win like that.”

Stevensville stymied any more BC comebacks in the fourth game, though. A kill by Hall and a block by Newman helped the Yellowjackets to a 9-3 advantage behind Larson’s serving. They held the lead. Hall hit two aces in a run that blunted a Butte Central rally that was stopped at three points distance. A Maroon serving error gave Stevi match point at 24-19 and then a four-hit call off of a BC passing miscue ended the match.

The Maroons went 0-10 in Southwestern A matches this season and will take a 2-12 overall record into the district tournament. As the sixth seed, it is likely that they will play Stevensville, the probable third seed, in Friday’s 4 p.m. opening match of the tournament in Frenchtown. The top four teams from the district tourney will advance to the divisional in Butte.

Strizic led the BC offense Saturday with 12 kills and Emma Keeley set 16  assists. Keeley also served three aces. On defense, Michelotti led in blocks with four, and three Butte Central players notched double figures in digs. Criscuolo had 14, and Sophia Burton and Olivia Bolton had 12 each.

Michelotti took over at middle blocker when freshman Allyson Mueller was sidelined by a medical condition being treated. Hancock said Mueller may be healthy for the district tournament.

Michelotti took a couple years off from volleyball for other sports before returning to the squad her senior season.

“Megan is doing great,” Hancock said.

The coach said the Maroons need to find their solid consistency to get back to the MAC from districts.

“I know they want it,” she said. “But, you have to throw yourself on the floor and show it. If we show up, we can get a good run at them. We have to focus on cutting down on our unforced errors. We have to see what’s going to work for us.”

Richards led Stevi with 15 kills, Larson put up 49 assists, Hall registered 15 digs, Kopsa pounded three aces and Newman planted three blocks

Stevensville def. Butte Central 25-19, 25-17, 24-26, 25-19.

KILLS — Stevi 57 (Angel Richards 15), BC 27 (Cassidy Strizic 12, Kassidy Criscuolo 5, Megan Michelotti 4, Olivia Bolton 3, Amira Bolton 2, Chelsey McGree 1). ASSISTS — Stevi 50 (Quinn Larson 49), BC 25 (Emma Keeley 16, O. Bolton 9). ACES — Stevi 6 (Cassi Kopsa 3), BC 7 (Keeley 3, A. Bolton 2, Strizic 1, Criscuolo 1). DIGS — Stevi 64 (Mikayla Hall 15), BC 53 (Criscuolo 14, Sophia Burton 12, O. Bolton 12, Strizic 9, Keeley 4, Zoe Sullivan 2). BLOCKS — Stevi 8 (Mikayla Newman 3), BC 11 (Michelotti 4, McGree 3, Criscuolo 1 ½, O. Bolton 1, A. Bolton 1, Strizic ½).