By Bruce Sayler
If there’d been spectators, they would have felt the back-and-forth, too.
Montana Tech went five sets with Providence of Great Falls in Frontier Conference college women’s volleyball Friday night, and it was the Great Falls contingent that prevailed. The Argonauts outlasted the Orediggers 25-22, 18-25, 25-20, 16-25, 15-10 in the Montana Tech HPER Complex. The outcome ran Providence-Great Falls’ win streak to 11 matches. (Stats)
Fatigue showed after the competition.
“It was a battle,” Montana Tech head coach Brian Solomon said. “There were a lot of big runs. That’s not always normal this time (of a season). But, both teams have so much talent that there was so much back-forth.”
The fifth game held court.
The Orediggers grabbed a 4-1 lead behind serving by Sarah Hopcroft and Kamaile Moody, and two kills by Karina Mickelson augmented by one from Taylor Henley.
Montana Tech was unable to stretch the margin by any more, and lost the edge completely on a kill by the Argos’ Sadie Lott that tied the score at 9-all. Providence-Great Falls caught the Orediggers twice earlier, but was unable to go ahead in the set. The Argonauts got a kill from Jensyn Turner for their first lead in the set.
Maureen Jessop nailed a kill for Montana Tech to knot the count at 10-all, but didn’t score again. Lott killed again for the 11-10 Argos edge. She followed it with another kill and then the Orediggers were called for a double-hit. Lott and Turner then combined on two straight blocks against Montana Tech power hitter Karina Mickelson and the match was over.
Lott wound up with 18 kills and five blocks in the match. Turner also had five blocks. Renae Davis punched 17 kills in support. Mickelson, however, was the match leader with 24 kills.
“Both teams hit well,” Solomon said. “One of their seniors, Renae Davis, had a big night for them with 17 kills and Karina Mickelson played well for us with a match-high 24 kills.
“I liked the way we played our middles and we blocked well. We had a good night at the net in a couple of ways.”
The Argonauts were a bit warmer than the Orediggers to launch the match. The visitors led all through the first set with a pair o nine-point leads being their largest in it. The last was as 17-8 after a dump try by Montana Tech setter McKenna Kaelber landed outside the boundary.
The Orediggers then found their range. Service runs by Emma Carver, Mickelson and Maureen Jessop helped the team close the gap to 19-18, achieved by an ace Hopcroft sizzled.
Montana Tech couldn’t pull even, though. A Jessop kill cut the difference to a point again at 21-20, but the Argos stayed ahead and got to set point at 24-21 when a Mickelson missile sailed too far. Mickelson then blocked a shot before Providence-Great Falls sealed the set win on a Lott kill.
“We got slow start out of the gate,” Solomon said. “We got down by quite a bit, but made a nice charge. We didn’t have the consistency to maintain that over our opponents.”
Montana Tech trailed most of the second game in which neither team owned more than a three-point lead. Cydney Finberg-Roberts had a serve tangle in the net, giving the Orediggers a tie at 17-all on the error. Montana Tech capitalized. Back-to-back kills by Mickelson snared the lead for good. Set point was reached at 24-18 on a block by Sydney Parks. A hard-to-handle serve by Carvo tabled up a good set by Kaelber that Parks pounded for the end-of-set kill. The match was tied at 1-all.
Providence-Great Falls recovered and won the third game. Two Montana Tech errors gave the Argos an 11-9 lead and they didn’t relinquish. Lott served a four-point run peppered by a Providence-Great Falls hitting show with kills by Turner, Davis and Adysen Burns. The spread widened to eight points, 21-13, but Montana Tech hit back. Parks and Kaelber paired on a block and then Lott was too strong on a spike to narrow the gap to 21-19. Three serves later, Finberg-Roberts blasted an ace for a 24-20 set point. Lott and Turner partnered on a block for close out the set.
Providence-Great Falls had the 2-1 match lead going into the fourth game. The Argonauts grabbed the early lead, too, holding a 5-2 advantage after Davis landed a tip into an open space.
Parks and Kaelber fenced up a block moments later to forge a 6-all tie. The Orediggers caused three more ties before going ahead 14-13 on a block by Megan Benton. They stayed in front. Montana Tech found set point at 24-16 as Parks tapped home a kill following an acrobatic save by Hopcroft.
Argonaut Ember Schwindt hit a shot wide of mark and Montana Tech won the set on the error, sending the match to the tiebreaker.
Jessop had 12 kills and Parks 10 to back Mickelson in the Montana Tech attack stats. Kaelber set 45 assists. Five Orediggers reached double digits in digs, led by libero Hannah Oggerino with 21 and followed by Hudsyn DiBrito with 18, Carvo with 16, Jessop with 14 and Kaelber with 11. Henley was outstanding at the net with nine blocks. Montana Tech was credited with 15 as a team. Parks clocked in with five.
Belgian libero Sacha Legros came up with 32 digs for Providence-Great Falls. Lott had 20.
The Orediggers played the match without facemasks for the first time this spring. Solomon said the decision to go without was because of the team not having any covid-19 cases or undergone any quarantines for pandemic contact at all. He said with numbers becoming more favorable in the community toward easing on some of the year-old restrictions, the decision was made to try playing without the masks. The other teams in the conference have been playing without the masks all season. Players continued to be masked while on the sidelines.
The Argonauts and the Orediggers will play again at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Montana Tech HPER Complex.