Knowing Butte High boasted a pair of 6-foot-3 middle hitters, Jessica Christensen expected they’d be a force at the net.

So Belgrade’s first-year head coach wanted to take the seniors out of the mix with aggressive serving. It was a solid game plan, but the Bulldogs were ready.

Kira Mortensen and Emma Field combined for 21 kills and seven blocks Tuesday night to spoil the first Class AA home match for Belgrade. The duo led Butte to a 25-15, 25-20, 25-20 nonconference victory.

“We talked about getting them out of system so they couldn’t set the middles, but they still would go to the middle,” Christensen said. “I felt like our blockers did a better job in Sets 2 and 3 staying with the middle because that is where most of their balls go.”

Belgrade struggled a bit in the first set, which Christensen attributed to jitters. Still, Butte led just 13-11 before breaking it open with six unanswered points featuring a kill and a block by Mortensen.

“Even though we had a good crowd and the student section was good and pretty loud,” Christensen said, “they were definitely nervous coming in.”

The Panthers (0-3) settled down after a slow start to the second set, but Field and Mortensen continued to control the action at the net.

In the third set, however, Belgrade’s offense finally began to click. Kamie Gorrell tallied four of her team-high nine kills during a 6-0 run as the Panthers surged into the lead, 18-17.

Eaton finished with six kills, but after the Panthers pulled in front. Field blocked Tessa Lamb to tie the set at 18. She added another block on Gorrell for a 20-18 lead, and that shifted momentum back to the Bulldogs.

While Field and Mortensen proved to be difficult to handle, the Panthers’ defense shined throughout the contest. Libero Tyclee Bowler tallied a match-high 26 digs, while Hazel and Arin Eaton each finished with nine.

“Our defense was really good tonight,” Christensen said. “Arin Eaton was amazing. She just works hard, even when there’s balls that look like she’s not going to get, Arin got to them.”

Colton Pool can be reached at cpool@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2690. Follow him on Twitter @CPoolReporter.