BUTTE — Before the start of the week, Butte High had yet to earn a win against a regional opponent.
They got the second of two on Friday in a 3-1 win over Belgrade on Thursday night.
Entering the week, the Bulldogs were 0-4 in league play, 5-5 overall, and in need of momentum and Butte was facing two important matchups against Missoula Hellgate and Belgrade.
After earning their first region win via a road sweep of Hellgate Tuesday, Butte volleyball and head coach Jeni Hope won an emotional match against Belgrade, taking three of four sets to win two matches in a row and put the Bulldogs on an upward swing.
“We had some good momentum after beating Hellgate on Tuesday,” Hope said. “But it’s important to have a good home game. We had to do our jobs and we have to keep winning, that’s all we can focus on.”
Butte got out to an early match lead thanks to a 25-19 win in the first game, but the Panthers responded strongly with a tight 25-23 victory in the second set. As the night rolled on, the intensity in Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gym turned up as well.
The Bulldogs matched the second set scoreline with a 25-23 advantage in the third, but the match’s quality peaked in the fourth set.
After taking two significant leads in the fourth set, Belgrade came alive with their backs against the wall. The Panthers’ comeback run led to a late 24-23 lead, but not before a back and forth of points ended in a 30-28 set victory.
Hope was nothing but complimentary of Belgrade, saying that it showed serious progress from Butte to not lose their cool in a close game.
“Belgrade’s a great team,” Hope said. “They were second at state last year, they’re scrappy and they’re just a good team. When you get ahead on a team like that, you can’t wait for them to mistakes, you have to win. We did that tonight.”
Speaking of keeping cool, Butte middle Emma Field did just that, according to Hope. The senior totaled 11 kills and six blocks, and was a key aspect of the offense, defense and mentality of the Bulldogs.
“[Field] is so calm and collected,” Hope said. “I’m on the sideline, my heart’s pounding, but I can look out at [Field] and know everything is going to be okay. She always has this, ‘I got this, coach’ look, and that’s what you want out of your players. She’s a force blocking and hitting, but she has this presence of calmness that helps us win.”
Butte will likely take a second to savor an emotional win, but Hope also made it a point to explain what the home win over Belgrade does to steady the team after a rough patch in the season prior to this week.
“We lost by five up in Kalispell,” Hope said. “It was a heartbreaker, so I felt like we needed that. It helps us get our spirits back up and proves that we can finish. It was a great opportunity to show what they’re made of and to be strong.”
The Bulldogs welcome Missoula Big Sky at home this upcoming Tuesday, while Belgrade heads east to take on Billings Central.
Anaconda 3, Missoula-Loyola 2
The Copperheads came back from a 2-0 deficit to take down the Breakers 18-25, 20-25, 25-22, 25-19, 15-11 in five sets.
The win keeps the Copperheads undefeated in conference play on the year. Loyola was able to take a big lead in the second and hang on for the win, but by then the Copperheads had gotten into their groove.
Anaconda hosts Deer Lodge in a rivalry game next week.
Corvallis 3, Butte Central 0
The Blue Devils handed the Maroons their first loss of the season on Thursday night, downing the Maroons in three sets.
Corvallis won 27-25, 25-20, 25-14 in Butte. The loss drops Butte Central to 3-1 on the year (2-1 Southwest A), while the Blue Devils move to 3-1 and are also 2-1 in conference play.
"We played some great volleyball tonight, but it just wasn't enough. Corvallis has a quick offense, and we struggled with that. We need to be able to put up a stronger block, read better, & react more quickly," Butte Central head coach Becky Hancock said. "I mean other than the 3rd game, we were right in there. Overall, I am pretty proud of how we played.
"It's the little things that we need to continue to fine tune, so we can reach that top level of play this team is capable of."
Cassidy Strizic had nine kills and 10 digs for the Maroons.
Butte Central is on the road this weekend for a game against Libby.