Story by Amanda Eggert EBS Senior Editor
BIG SKY – The Big Horns have won six consecutive games during the past month, securing their spot as the No. 2 team in their district as the regular season draws to a close.
In fact, the Big Horns haven’t ceded a single set to an opponent since Sep. 30. In each of their past four matches, they’ve won in three sets.
During the Oct. 3 game against the Harrison/Willow Creek Wildcats, junior outside hitter Brooke Botha set a school record for aces in a single game with 12. The Wildcats struggled to slide a point in edgewise during the third set and Botha served to the young and inexperienced team 22 times consecutively.
The Big Horns’ match against Shields Valley on Oct. 7 was a bit more competitive. “It went very well,” Lone Peak head coach Missy Botha said. “We had a great turnout.”
It was the fourth annual “Spike for a Cure” game sponsored by Big Sky’s Ace Hardware store. Kevin Barton started the tradition in honor of his wife Tina O. Barton, who lost her battle with breast cancer in 2015. This year, $1,623 was raised for Bozeman Health Foundation to help make mammogram screening available to uninsured or underinsured women, as was Tina’s wish.
“This was a tough year for us, as it was [my daughter] Julia’s last night playing in the Spike for a Cure game,” wrote Kevin, who is the president of Ace Hardware—Big Sky, in an email to EBS.
At the close of the match, Kevin presented an “Ace of the Game” ball to senior libero Bryn Iskendarian. “Bryn definitely deserved the Ace of the Game. Her passing and digging were incredible,” coach Botha said, adding that she also played a strong match from the service line.
Coach Botha feels confident about the Big Horns’ odds when they compete in the district tournament at Manhattan Christian Oct. 26 and 27.
“We’ve made huge strides in so many different areas,” she said, referencing improvements she’s seen in the team since August. “We’ve tightened up our chemistry, our talking [and] our footwork. Our back row defense has come up huge recently.”
Coach Botha added that the team is only as good as its bench. “We’re a strong team. I feel like I can plug in anyone at anytime.”
Lone Peak’s conference record is 6-1 and their overall record is 10-3. Their next match is Friday, Oct. 13, a road game against one of the toughest teams in the district, the Manhattan Christian Eagles.
Like the Big Horns, the Eagles are a tall, experienced team with a front row of crackerjack hitters and blockers. Lone Peak last played Manhattan Christian during their Sept. 21 homecoming match, which went to five close sets.
The only conference loss Lone Peak has suffered this year has been against the Gardiner Bruins. The Big Horns will have a shot at redemption when they play the Bruins on Senior Night, Saturday, Oct. 14.
“Gardiner is an overall well-rounded team,” Botha said. “They have a good offense at the net [but] we’re right there with them. I don’t see any reason why we can’t beat Gardiner on Saturday.”
Botha said the first 50 people who come through the door for the varsity game on Saturday will receive a free hot dog. There will also be a 50/50 raffle for the eight grade Washington D.C. trip.
“I really would like to fill the seats and have the homecoming atmosphere that we had against Manhattan Christian. I feel like the crowd really boosted our energy and we need that same energy on Senior Night,” Botha said.
The Big Horns’ last home game will be against Gardiner on Saturday, Oct. 14, Senior Night. The game starts at 6:30 p.m. The 11C District tournament will be held at Manhattan Christian on Oct. 26 and 27.