An emotional senior night at the Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gymnasium started with a bang.
After pre-game emotions settled down, Butte and Missoula Sentinel opened their match with an impressive opener. After several lead changes and 10 extra points, the Bulldogs claimed the first set 31-29 en route to a senior night sweep.
For head coach Jeni Hope, the emotions of senior night was already getting to the team coming in, so there was a question on if her team would be ready when the match started.
“I was actually worried coming in,” Hope said. “They are such a close group and so much emotion before the game, crying, hugging. To turn around 180 degrees and play really hard, they played for the seniors and I couldn’t be prouder of that group.”
Winning the first game against a team that had beaten the Bulldogs in four sets earlier this year was crucial, and provided momentum for Butte, who went on to win the second and third sets by margins of 25-20 and 25-14.
Cameron LaFond took the court alongside fellow seniors Emma Field, Sydney Doyle, Trisha Ericson, Grace McGrath and Kira Mortensen, but said that an intense first game rewarded the early emotions as well as gave the Bulldogs the momentum to earn a victory.
“It felt really good,” LaFond said. “It was extremely important to win that first set. After, the momentum was on our side and it showed because we took a big lead in the second set. We’ve come together a lot more towards the end of the season. It was emotional and we played ten times harder because of it.”
The seniors not only were honored, but led the game in key stats. Field 11’s kills were the most of either side, while Ericson and McGrath tied each other for the game’s most aces with three a piece.
McGrath’s 18 assists was a Bulldog high, and Sentinel’s Paige Sawyer led the game with 21 assists herself. Sheridan Schweyen led the Spartans with ten kills, and Sierra Dennison led the contest with an impressive five blocks.
The Bulldogs still have a road trip to Missoula Big Sky before playoffs, but Hope believes that the team is peaking right when it will benefit them most.
“Our momentum is so high right now,” Hope said. “It’s just excitable, I’m still shaking. I can feel the momentum on the court, I can feel it on the bench, I can feel it everywhere. What better time than right now? We need that momentum.”