MISSOULA — One of the more frequent chants emanating from the Missoula Hellgate student section Tuesday night was “This is our house.”
It’s a common chant at sporting events, but Hellgate was the road team this particular night. And for a while, the Missoula Sentinel gym felt like it belonged to the Knights, not the Spartans.
Sentinel appeared scattered at times throughout the match but still pulled out a 25-13, 20-25, 25-10, 25-23 volleyball victory over Hellgate. The Spartans got back in the win column after suffering their first loss of the season on Saturday, a 2-0 defeat to Billings Senior.
“Crosstowns are always really energetic,” Sentinel senior middle hitter Kylie Frohlich said before giving a nod to the black, red and gold student section. “But I think today especially both stands were packed and getting very loud. It was definitely good to see, but it brought a whole different element to the game.
“I definitely think it did impact us in more of a negative way. Usually we do pretty good with that, but I think we might have gotten distracted by it. We just need to start learning to use that energy. Hellgate did a better job tonight using the energy in the gym to their advantage. We could have got more excited about some plays and celebrated more.”
It was hardly a convincing victory, but Sentinel coach Erin Keffeler was happy to leave with a win, especially one that didn’t require five sets.
“I just loved Hellgate’s heart. They played with a lot of heart,” Keffeler said. “My girls definitely finished strong to fight to the finish in set four and not let that go (to five) was a big deal for me, for them. I’m proud of them.”
Frohlich led all players with 17 kills, was tied for the team high with three blocks and added two aces. Senior outside hitter Elsa Godwin had 12 digs and five aces, both team highs, to go along with 14 kills.
Senior setter Jordyn Schweyen had 34 of the Spartans’ 39 assists.
“Jordyn Schweyen, this is her first year setting, so she’ll need a few matches to get comfortable,” Keffeler said. “She definitely stayed right there and kept going on. That helped us stay in the match.”
Hellgate senior Kate Koenig paced the Knights with five aces and seven kills. Junior Kylie Lunday had three of the team’s nine blocks, which was a reworked piece of Hellgate’s game plan.
“That’s all we did at practice yesterday,” Hellgate coach Matty Hancock said. “We knew that Sentinel is a big hitting team, so just putting up that block and just serving tough and just also keeping that energy alive within the group.
"They played so well. I’m unbelievably proud of them. They just came together as a team. Yes, we lost, but I am just so proud of the outcome of how they performed.”
Sentinel closed the first set on 14-2 run to win 25-13. Godwin jumpstarted the strong close with a kill that ended Hellgate’s 6-0 run, which had tied the set at 11-11. During the 14-2 stretch, Godwin had four kills and an ace, and Frohlich had three kills and a pair of combo blocks with Schweyen.
Hellgate won set two, 25-20, by closing on a 9-3 run after it trailed 17-16. The Knights got three aces during the run, including two by Koenig. They took advantage of eight balls Sentinel hit out of bounds or into the net that set.
After Sentinel won rather convincingly in set three, 25-10, Hellgate bounced back in the fourth set and almost forced a winner-take-all fifth set.
The Knights trailed by four or more three times in the set, including as late as 22-18. They rallied with five consecutive points, and Sydney McDaniel’s ace put Hellgate ahead 23-22.
Frohlich closed the match with two of the final three kills.
“It definitely feels good to get a win, even though it was a bit tougher of a game,” Frohlich said. “Huge props to Hellgate. They came ready to battle. It took us a while to push back.”