Point, Panthers!

Belgrade's players celebrate after scoring a point Tuesday against Billings Senior.

It took seven tries, but Belgrade’s volleyball team finally notched its first victory of the season Tuesday in Billings.

Tayler Thomas again led the way for the Panthers offensively with seven kills, but first-year coach Brit Murphy noted it was a complete team effort in the 25-23, 25-22, 25-21 Eastern AA sweep of Billings Senior.

“This entire week was a really big turning point for our girls. We did a lot of team building and character building, and they went out there today and they finally played like a family,” said Murphy. “There was really great energy regardless of the ref calls, regardless of the score. They were really positive and really high energy.”

Murphy added that it was a “break through win” and credited her team for fighting back after giving up early leads in each set.

“I think we play better when there’s a fight and there’s something to work for. It’s a lot easier to kind of get laxed and not play as hard when you’re 10 points ahead,” she said. “So I think it’s a lot more fun, and a lot more of a challenge, and a lot more of a fight in those closer games. But they were able to really pull it through and not let the missed points get to their heads, and instead focus on the next point.”

Senior middle hitter Brytan Rogers returned from an ankle injury and scored on three kills, while junior Tana Kostelecky was elevated from JV for the match and also scored on three kills.

Defensively libero Tycelee Bowler had 12 digs and Arin Eaton six, while Delanee Hicks dished out 11 assists.

“Delanee did an awesome job setting today. She was making really smart sets, putting the ball exactly where it needed to go,” said Murphy. “And Arin Eaton in the back row was making a lot of really smart plays and had some really tough serves.”

The Panthers competed with senior Kamie Gorrell (illness) and sophomore Olivia Wegner (family commitment). But Kostelecky helped fill the void by playing all the way around.

Belgrade (1-6) returns to action Thursday hosting Class A Park County.

“They all now know that they can do it,” said Murphy. “And they have that confidence to know that it’s not just something that we’ve been telling them, and it’s not just something that their mom’s say to them before they go into a game. It’s something that they can actually accomplish.”

Belgrade def. Billings Senior 25-23, 25-22, 25-21.

BELGRADE (1-6) - Kills: 15 (Tayler Thomas 7). Digs: 33 (Tycelee Bowler 12). Blocks: 6 (Gracey Carter 4). Aces: 6 (Delanee Hicks 2, Syliva Wilting 2). Assists: 13 (Hicks 11).

BILLINGS SENIOR (2-5) - Kills: 31 (Ella Kincaid 8). Digs: 69 (Liv LaBeau 17). Blocks: 9 (Kendra Curtis 5). Aces: 9 (Kincaid 4). Assists: 25 (Emma Hanson 25).

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