Knowing that Butte High boasted a pair of 6-foot-3 middle hitters, Jessica Christensen expected they’d be a force at the net.
So Belgrade’s first-year coach wanted to take the seniors out of the mix with aggressive serving. It was a solid game plan, but the Bulldogs were ready.
Kira Mortensen and Emma Field combined for 21 kills and seven blocks Tuesday night to spoil the first Class AA home match for Belgrade. The duo led Butte High to a 25-15, 25-20, 25-20 non-conference victory.
“We talked about getting them out of system so they couldn’t set the middles, but they still would go to the middle,” said Christensen. “I felt like our blockers did a better job in sets two and three staying with the middle because that is where most of their balls go.”
Belgrade struggled a bit in the first set, which Christensen attributed to jitters. Still, Butte High led just 13-11 before breaking it open with a 6-0 run featuring a kill and a block by Mortensen.
“Even though we had a good crowd and the student section was good and pretty loud,” Christensen said, “they were definitely nervous coming in.”
The Panthers (0-3) settled down after a slow start to the second set, but Field and Mortensen continued to control the action at the net.
In the third set, however, Belgrade’s offense finally began to click. Kamie Gorrell tallied four of her team-high nine kills during a 6-0 run as the Panthers surged into the lead, 18-17.
“Kamie Gorrell played awesome tonight. That was probably the best game that I’ve ever seen her play,” said Christensen. “Actually her and Hazel Eaton both, our outsides, were our go-to tonight for sure.”
Eaton finished with six kills, but after the Panthers pulled in front Field blocked Tessa Lamb to knot the set at 18. She added another block on Gorrell for a 20-18 lead, and that shifted momentum back to the Bulldogs.
While Field and Mortensen proved to be difficult to handle, the Panthers’ defense shined throughout the contest. Libero Tyclee Bowler tallied a match-high 26 digs, while Hazel and Arin Eaton each finished with nine.
“Our defense was really good tonight,” said Christensen. “Arin Eaton was amazing. She just works hard, even when there’s balls that looks like she’s not going to get, Arin got to them.”
Butte def. Belgrade 25-15, 25-20, 25-20.
BUTTE - Kills: n/a (Kira Mortensen 11, Emma Field 10. Digs: n/a: Trisha Ericson 15). Blocks: n/a: Mortensen 4, Field 3). Aces: n/a: 3 with 2). Assists: n/a.
BELGRADE (0-3) - Kills: 25 (Kamie Gorrell 9, Hazel Eaton 6). Digs: 55 (Tyclee Bowler 26, Arin Eaton 9, Hazel Eaton 9). Blocks: 3 (Tessa Lamb 3). Aces: 7 (Delanee Hicks 4, A. Eaton 2). Assists: 24 (Hicks 24).