By Amanda Eggert EBS Senior Editor
BIG SKY – Lone Peak handed the Eagles their first conference loss of the season in a 3-2 nail-biter on Sept. 21, demonstrating their ability to step up their game before an animated hometown crowd.
“The energy in that gym on Homecoming was palpable and the girls really rose up,” said Lone Peak head coach Missy Botha, adding that she nearly lost her voice during the match. “I didn’t sleep the whole night [afterward]. The amount of adrenaline—it was a hard game to come down from.”
The Eagles, who were 3-0 in conference play and 3-2 overall coming into the match, took the first set 25-20, aided in part by their ability to dig powerful hits. “They were a good digging team,” Botha said. “We really had to target our [spikes].”
In the second set, the Big Horns did just that. Junior middle hitter Solae Swenson sent one kill after another over the net into the Eagles’ court.
“When Solae goes up for a hit, the other team is visibly fearful because they know they’ve got a hard ball coming at them,” Botha said.
The Eagles’ held onto the lead until the middle of the set when they could no longer keep pace with the Big Horns’ firepower at the net.
By the time the scoreboard read 16, the Big Horns had tied the Eagles and a point-for-point exchange followed, all the way to the set’s 28-26 close. Lone Peak ultimately secured the set with a thrilling block the Eagles couldn’t return.
In the third set, the Big Horns made the most of their improved serving skills, which they’d been working on in practice since their Sept. 16 loss to Gardiner. Junior outside hitter Brooke Botha piled on the points from the service line, leading Lone Peak on a six-point run. Despite landing a couple of strong and well-placed hits, the Eagles couldn’t recover and lost the third set 25-15.
The Eagles made a resurgence to claim the fourth set, which featured a series of long volleys kept alive with remarkable hustle and impressive dives. Both teams put their defensive skills on display, keeping the crowd on their feet by returning one seemingly impossible ball after another.
In the fifth set—played to just 15—the Eagles kept right on the Big Horns’ tail, but couldn’t quite catch them. Senior libero Bryn Iskendarian set Lone Peak up for success by making well-placed passes to senior setter Kuka Holder. Senior middle hitter Katie Hoffman stepped up her spiking game in that match, landing a couple of key spikes to help the Big Horns win the set 15-12.
The Big Horns had a four-way tie in total kills with Swenson, Brooke Botha, Hoffman, and junior outside hitter Madison Wagner each notching 11. Brooke led the team’s aces column with six, and Holder led the blocking charge with three. After winning the match, the Big Horns’ record stands 4-1 in conference play and 4-3 overall.
Lone Peak’s next home game will be on Tuesday, Oct. 3, against Harrison and Willow Creek at 5 p.m.