In the final home volleyball match for Bonneville seniors Makayla Sorensen, Alexis McMurtrey, Sadie Lott, Maddi Pettingill and Maely Harrigfeld, the Bees went out winners by extending an impressive streak.
No. 1 seeded Bonneville defeated No. 5 seeded Shelley 25-15, 25-10, 25-8 in Thursday’s 4A District 6 championship match to wrap up its fourth consecutive district title. The Bees won two at the 5A level in 2016 and 2017 before winning the 4A District 6 titles the last two seasons.
Sorensen, McMurtrey and Lott have been four-year varsity players while Pettingill and Harrigfeld are in their second year on varsity, but they shared the same sense of pride and accomplishment while taking turns for photos with the trophy Thursday.
“It’s definitely a cool experience because not many schools get the opportunity to be four-time district champions,” Lott said.
“I think it’s cool that even though (Maddi and I) haven’t been with them all four years, we still get to play with our best friends,” Harrigfeld added.
Bonneville head coach Chantal McMurtrey cited multiple factors for the district title streak. She credited Bonneville’s tradition and student athletes who are easy to work with and understand their roles.
“When they are coming into the program, there’s the expectations and there’s that goal,” she said. “We have great kids. When you ask them to work hard, it’s nice to have that goal in sight. When you have that great group of kids, they make it look easy.”
Bonneville’s opponent Thursday drew much chatter over the three-day tournament. Shelley entered districts as the No. 5 seed, having lost to every 4A District 6 team except Hillcrest in the regular season. The Russets began districts with a five-set win over No. 4 seed Blackfoot and a three-set loss to Bonneville. On Wednesday, Shelley defeated No. 6 seed Hillcrest before beating No. 3 seed Idaho Falls in four sets. The Russets qualified for the 4A state tournament with a three set win over No. 2 Skyline in Thursday’s semifinal to advance to the 4A District 6 championship match versus the Bees. It was quite the contrast to Bonneville, which had a first-round bye and had gone undefeated versus 4A District 6 teams all season, and first-year Shelley coach Savannah Leckington credited it to peaking at the right time.
“Two games a day for three days in a row is a lot of volleyball,” Leckington said. “We had different people step up at different times that we don’t normally see. We’ve just built a lot of trust within our team.”
Bonneville’s seniors said they were excited to play the Russets, who qualified for their first state tournament since 2015 when they won the 3A state title. Having seen them in the previous days of the tournament, some of Bonneville’s seniors said they were not surprised it came down to Skyline, Shelley and Bonneville on the final day.
“They bring such great energy,” Pettingill said.
“They were so excited,” Sorensen added. “They came in so ready to play.”
Coach McMurtrey said she had an inclination Wednesday that the Russets would be Bonneville’s opponent in the championship match. Her prediction that Shelley would beat Skyline in the semifinals was also spot on.
“As the tournament went on, you could see their confidence building,” she said. “As I watched them last night versus Idaho Falls, you could just feel that energy.”
That energy was particularly evident in the first two sets of the championship match. The Bees led by no more than five points early in the first set as the Russets found ways to bounce back and keep the margin close. Bonneville put the set away with five unanswered points. The momentum carried into the second set, which began with a 3-1 Shelley lead. After taking the lead for good at 5-4, Bonneville went on an 8-0 run. The Bees got the last nine points of the set to win and go up 2-0 in the match.
“We had kills from everyone,” Leckington said. “Usually, we don’t have that. Aces, even serving, those were giving us our runs. We’ve just been building up to today.”
The Bees put some distance behind themselves in the third set, however, jumping out to a 10-0 lead. Bonneville’s advantage grew to as much as 15-2 and 21-5 en route to wrapping up the three-set sweep.
Sorensen had 19 kills, 13 digs and two blocks, Lott had 12 kills, 10 digs, one block, Mariah Jardine had six kills, three blocks, Pettingill had six kills, Harrigfeld had 15 digs and McMurtrey had three aces and 37 assists for the Bees (34-6), who begin the 4A state tournament one week from today in north Idaho versus the District 3 third-place/District 4-5 third place state play-in winner. Shelley will begin state versus the District 3 champion.
Bonneville’s seniors said taking second to Century at last year’s 4A state tournament has given them additional motivation entering state next week. They added that handling the target on their backs from winning four consecutive district titles has been no simple task.
“We’ve had to work hard every single day, every single practice,” Lott said.
“This is what we have been working for all our lives,” Alexis McMurtrey added. “It definitely is a lot of pressure to live up to. There’s an amazing legacy at Bonneville.”