HELENA — All of the key ingredients were there — hype, emotion, motivation. At the end of the night, one more became present — domination.
No. 2 Helena High swept crosstown rival and top-ranked Helena Capital 25-22, 27-25 and 25-20 on Tuesday night, handing the Bruins their first Western AA volleyball loss of the season. The Bengals improved to 14-2 overall and 5-0 in the Western AA conference, while Capital fell to 14-2, 4-1.
“We stayed together as a team the whole time. We didn’t get too low on the lows, too high on the highs and we just stayed together,” said Helena High junior outside hitter Abby Marcille. “It’s definitely a big accomplishment for us. They’re probably our greatest competition, and we were ready for them.”
Helena High took advantage of the atmosphere in the opening set, racing out to an early lead. The Bengals led 20-16 before the Bartsch twins, Dani and Paige, rallied Capital to tie the match at 22. Dani Bartsch served an ace before Paige added a block and a kill to tie the match and give Capital momentum. But Helena High scored three straight points, the finale an Elizabeth Heuiser ace, one of her two on the evening, to give Helena the 25-22 first-set win.
“We just came out ready to play, knowing we had to get in their heads and get them down,” said Bengals setter Emily Feller. “All our team chemistry was there, all our passes, all our hits. We were just fired up and ready to play.”
The second set brought deja vu, with Paige Bartsch again rallying Capital from a small deficit to tie the set at 21-all. But Marcille and Jamie Pickens provided the spark for Helena High and head coach Lindsey Day, with Pickens earning two of her game-high 15 kills in the waning moments of the set. Pickens also added five blocks for the Bengals. But Sarah Ashley added one of her team-high 11 kills to tie the set at 24. Marcille posted a kill on the outside to put Helena at set-point, but Dani Bartsch quickly responded.
Amelia Stoner’s ace and Marcille’s back-row kill gave Helena High the 27-25 victory and a 2-0 lead in the match.
Helena High dominated the final set from start to finish to earn the sweep.
“It was great to come out on top, because they’re our rivals. We want to beat them every time,” said Feller. “It was great to come out with the first set and then winning like that. It’s the best.”
The Bengals and Bruins were two of the hottest teams in Montana entering the week, leading to the Class AA coaches voting them No. 1 and 2. It’s believed to be the first time in the history of the coaches polls Helena Capital and Helena High were the top two teams in Montana.