Three straight sets, three straight wins.
Despite the best efforts of Missoula Big Sky (1-8), Butte (7-5) was determined to notch their third consecutive victory, sweeping the Eagles by scores of 25-19, 25-15 and 25-17 respectively.
The regional matchup was predominantly led by Butte, who only lost a set lead twice all game, both of which came in the first pair of games. A consistent performance with a strong performance was a mantra of practice leading up to Tuesday’s contest, Bulldogs head coach Jeni Hope said.
“Even after last week’s wins,” Hope said. “We were working on finishing a lot in practice. It’s about minimizing errors and maximizing opportunities, and they did that very well tonight. They executed our plan and we have to continue to do that.”
Brooke McGrath was also a key performer for the Bulldogs at the Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gymnasium, totaling eight kills from her outside position. McGrath also led the team in digs, setting the Butte offense up with 11 digs.
Hope says that while McGrath may be young and smaller than her positional counterparts, the 5’8” sophomore makes the most of her speed by being one of the Bulldogs’ most dynamic players.
“She comes out of nowhere,” Hope said. “She’s like a flying squirrel, she’s not big but she transitions hard and comes up so fast. She makes so many plays on the outside and it’s like teams can’t see her coming. For a sophomore, it’s really impressive.”
On the other side of the court, Big Sky were led by standout junior Beth Hicks, who totaled eight kills, one block and one ace. The 5’7” middle hitter was often the focal point of the Eagles’ offense.
Hicks was matched up on Butte senior Emma Field throughout the night, which made for a competitive duel between two different style of middle players.
Big Sky head coach Mike Pimentel said that while Hicks is a key part of the offense, she also means just as much in the teamwork and mental departments.
“She is our leader,” Pimentel said. “Always brings the energy and confidence we need. She triples down onto the court, she comes to every practice and game ready to go. She brings a fire to her teammates that we love.”
Field also had a solid performance in the aforementioned duel, tallying six kills, an ace and a solo block for the Bulldogs.
While Big Sky looks to rebound, Butte now sits in a much more opportune spot than they did less than two weeks ago. Two regional wins in the past fortnight is especially nice, but Hope says the bigger factor is that the Bulldogs are brimming with confidence.
“Getting three wins is really important,” Hope said. “Confidence is really important with volleyball, and the happiness of everyone matters in our sport. In our game, it’s a huge factor, so practice ought to be fun tomorrow and we’re going into Thursday as positive as we can be.”
Butte now travels to Missoula Sentinel for another big regional matchup, and Sentinel also returns to the Bitteroot Valley to host crosstown opponents Missoula Hellgate.