Billings Skyview seemed to have all the intangibles in its favor for Thursday night's intra-city volleyball showdown with Billings West, the first meeting of the season between the teams.
The Falcons were ranked third in the state and had an unbeaten conference record. West was missing starter Sydney Lich, one of its key hitters. Yet, the Falcons seemed to be the ones who were intimidated going into the match. A five-year losing streak to the same school has a way of putting a team on its heels.
Skyview ended that drought, though, edging the Golden Bears in come-from-behind fashion 14-25, 25-17, 23-25, 25-21, 15-11 at the West gym. By breaking away from an 8-8 tie in the fifth set, the Falcons (11-5) moved their Eastern AA record to 4-0 and finally broke through against their rival.
“I think we had kids coming into tonight very, very scared and very nervous,” Skyview coach Vicki Carle said. “I think you could tell by the way we played, we just weren’t quick to the ball. I think just the aura of playing West had us thrown a little bit. And so maybe that’s a monkey off our back now.”
Despite the highlight of winning the match, Carle said her team was inconsistent. The Falcons had 58 kills to West’s 43, but were victimized by 21 blocks. And when West won the first set pretty handily, Carle took her team to a corner of the gym and, well, put the fear of coach in them.
“She made us realize that we were better than what we were playing and how much better we can be and how good we should be playing,” said Skyview setter Breeanna Mason, who had 43 assists, 18 digs and three aces.
The Falcons responded with a strong second set, but from there the teams played evenly. Skyview led the third set 20-19 before West rallied for the win, and both teams had long point runs in the fourth set until Skyview pulled away.
Skyview's Aubree Mason led all players with 18 kills and had a team-high 20 digs. Bekah Ellis added 11 kills, and Hailey Copinga, Vanessa Newman and Whitney Pomroy had four blocks.
Aubree Mason attributed the Falcons’ success to improved defensive play as the match went on.
The key to winning was “having confidence in ourselves and especially in our back row,” she said. “Because (West) has really strong hitters. We did great in our back row and I’m so proud of them.”
KC Christensen led the Bears with 12 kills and Sadie Lehenbauer added nine. Christensen had seven blocks, Callie VanLuvanee added five blocks and Christine Wing had 30 assists. Tatum Meyer had 24 digs.
Though a fast start gave them a 4-0 lead in set four with a chance to ride the momentum, the Bears (3-3, 10-5) never again had a lead that big the rest of the way.
“I think we did a pretty decent job of compensating without Syd tonight,” said West coach Kelly Deming, who added she expects Lich to miss at least two weeks with a shoulder injury. “We weren’t the big offensive threat like we could have been, but I think we did a good job of compensating.”