It goes down as a three-set sweep in the scorebook, but Skyview had to scratch and claw to get out clean against Class A foe Central on Thursday night.
The Falcons prevailed in a tight opening set, cruised in the second and then survived an epic third frame for a 25-23, 25-11, 31-29 victory. They remain undefeated in non-tournament, regular-season matches.
For Skyview, carrying the No. 1 ranking in AA isn’t about gratification. Though they earned that title by knocking off defending state champ, crosstown rival and previous No. 1 Senior last week, the Falcons try to go about their business they way they have since the season began.
“I don’t think we carry ourselves any different than before,” Skyview hitter Shea Wacaser said. “We still play as hard as we can every single point, and if we mess up, we shake it off and do it again.”
That was definitely the case against Central, especially in a dogfight of a third set.
Skyview led 17-11 midway through, and a sweep appeared inevitable without much resistance. But the Rams reeled off 12 of the next 18 points to crawl back into it.
Leading the way was Justyn Juhl, whose powerful right arm finally found a way to evade the Falcons’ block up front. Juhl had back to back kills, Barclay Fagg delivered a service ace and Skyview’s Breeanna Mason flung one long outside the end line, and suddenly it was 23-23.
It was a tug of war from there. The Falcons served for the set a whopping five times before they finally won it.
And wouldn’t you know, after a series of big hits, unbelievable volleys and instinctive plays, the match ended when the Rams were called for a net violation.
“We just have some competitive kids that find a way to get it done,” said Skyview coach Vicki Carle. “There are plays that these kids make that you can’t coach. They find a way to get a hand on a ball to keep it alive.
“I thought we served fairly well, and they struggled a little bit with serve-receive, so that might be one thing that was in our favor. But they have some good swings on the outside and in the middle … it was just a hard-fought battle.”
Skyview was the better team at the net for most of the match, both offensively and defensively. The Falcons finished with 38 kills, 10 each from Aubree Mason and lefty Hailey Copinga.
They also had 10 stuff blocks, led by Wacaser’s four.
Juhl had 14 of Central’s 32 kills. In fact, Juhl led the Rams in four of five statistical categories (she also had five blocks). Rams setter Baylee Hadley finished with 28 assists.
“They have a really big block. We didn’t adjust to that very fast,” Hadley said. “We could have done a better job of that. And they served us very well. We didn’t have a very good serve-receive tonight, and that’s something we need to work on.”
Despite the result, the match proved that the Rams remain a top contender in Class A. Central is now 18-5 overall.
The Falcons, now 18-3, play their next match Tuesday against Senior at the Broncs gym, a showdown in which the No. 1 ranking will again be up for grabs, not to mention the top standing in the Eastern AA.
“Senior’s an outstanding team. Everybody knows their tradition,” Carle said. “We have to go in and play good volleyball. We can’t have any lapses or mental breakdowns. We need to be solid.
“But this match here (against Central) made us a better team, and I’m really glad we got a chance to play them and beat them.”
Skyview def. Central 25-23, 25-11, 31-29
Billings Skyview (18-3) -- Kills: 38 (Aubree Mason 10, Hailey Copinga 10). Blocks: 8 (Shea Wacaser 4). Aces: 12 (Deja Fuson 5). Digs: 70 (Bekah Ellis 15). Assists: 36 (Breeanna Mason 34).
Billings Central (18-5) -- Kills: 32 (Justyn Juhl 14). Blocks: 7 (Juhl 5). Aces: 8 (Juhl 3). Digs: 67 (Juhl 17). Assists: 31 (Baylee Hadley 31).