Billings Senior setter Jace Henderson stuck up her hand, stopping what looked to be a sure overpass, and seemed to leave the ball just floating above the net. Taylor Mims quickly followed and put the ball down for a resounding kill.
Yes, it was that kind of night for the Broncs, who broke away from a close first set and went on to sweep Billings West 25-13, 25-12, 25-13 at the Senior gym on Tuesday night. West was within 12-11 early on, but the top-ranked Broncs won 63 of the next 90 points to keep their unbeaten record.
“The timing was perfect tonight,” said Kiahna Steiner, who led Senior with 11 kills and shared team-high honors in blocks (5) with Andrea Bowers. “We had a good week of practice and last weekend we ended good in Butte, so we’ll just keep pushing forward. We’re getting our timing down really well with our fast offense, so we’re proud of that.”
Whether it was Henderson’s one-handed set — something coach Jeff Carroll said he hasn’t seen since 2008 when his daughter Emily was setting for Senior — or Henderson’s slide-sets to Steiner or quick-sets to Mims, everything clicked for the Broncs.
Even when West made outstanding plays, the Broncs seemed to get the point, like when the Bears’ Jessica Kugler made a tough dig of a powerful kill attempt by Steiner only to see Mims put the ball away with a block much to the delight of a vocal Senior student section.
“The crowd definitely helped,” said Henderson, who had 33 assists and a number of tips and pushes for points. “We just came out and were so pumped and so ready, I mean crosstown rival … you just come out focused and ready to play and I think that it carried over throughout the whole entire match.”
After four consecutive points early in the first set helped the Bears pull within 12-11 on a Senior net violation, West scored more than two consecutive points only two more times the rest of the match. Most of the time the Bears had to settle for one or two-point runs, and that was simply not enough to hang with the Broncs on this night.
“We struggled on serve-receive, definitely,” West coach Kelly Deming said. “And they picked us apart. We got down three or four points then and definitely couldn’t fight back. We stayed positive, though, but the momentum swing was definitely with them.”
Senior had nearly as many blocks (11) as West did kills (17). KC Christensen had eight kills and two blocks for the Bears (6-3 overall, 3-2 Eastern AA), while Sydney Lich had six kills and Christine Wing 16 assists and nine digs.
Mims finished with eight kills for the Broncs (15-0, 3-0), who also got 15 digs from Jessica Haley and 11 digs from Cydney Kurth.
“Anytime you beat West High you’ve got to feel happy,” said Carroll, who added he was disappointed with his team’s ball control and block at times. “They’re a good team. They came in here 6-2 and I know that they came in with some confidence, feeling like they could maybe beat us. But our kids showed up to play today and proved why they have the record that they do.”