By Bruce Sayler
Every touch counted and it was the few times Rocky Mountain capitalized more on them that decided the difference in the Bears’ volleyball win over Montana Tech Friday night.
The win was the ninth straight in Frontier Conference women’s volleyball for the 11-1 Rocky Mountain club, this one a 26-24, 25-17, 22-25, 26-24 intense heater over Montana Tech in the Orediggers’ HPER Complex. (Stats)
“It was a good match,” Montana Tech head coach Brian Solomon said. “I loved how competitive it was and how it was so back-and-forth.
“Both teams made some good plays, and (the Bears) made a couple more good plays at the end of the first and fourth sets than we did.”
Rocky Mountain, 10-1 in conference, led almost all of the first game, but not by much. The Orediggers even took a 24-23 edge on a kill by Maureen Jessop. The Bears tied on a kill by Monique Rodriguez, then chalked up set point on a Rodriguez block. Morgan Allen scored the winner, a kill set by Natalie Hilderman.
Montana Tech owned a bigger margin late in the fourth set and looked on course to tie the match score after Rocky Mountain and the Orediggers had traded wins in the second and third games. A kill by Karina Mickelson had stretched the Montana Tech advantage to 22-17 late in the fourth. The Bears were tough.
Allen fenced up two straight blocks a few serves later and knotted the count at 23-all. She then tallied a point on a tip and Rocky Mountain had taken an edge for match point. However, Mickelson re-tied the score with a rocket. Kyra Oakland blasted a kill off the Orediggers’ block and the Bears had match point at 25-24. They converted when Bailey King scored on a block while battling with Mickelson at the net.
It ended the match, the third win for Rocky Mountain over Montana Tech in this unusual winter/spring season. They’ll wrap up their series on Saturday with a 1 p.m. match at the Orediggers’ HPER Complex.
“We had momentum from the third set that carried over,” Solomon said. “But, we got a little tentative in the fourth set in some areas. Plus, Rocky adjusted and blocked us well.
“It was a really well-played match with a lot of points scored. We started out a little slow. We did have 18 kills in the first set, but Rocky had 20. They’re a really good team.”
The Bears controlled the second game, but pretty slimly, from the start. Montana Tech never got ahead in the set after a Weiying Wu kill fractured a 5-all deadlock. The Orediggers stayed within a point or two of the lead most of the rest of the way until Rocky Mountain surged at the end. They got to set point, 24-17, on an Allen tip for tally, then won the set on a kill credited to Addy Valdez.
Montana Tech fought its way back into the contest with a good third game. As with the others, the set was extremely tightly played with neither team gaining more than a three-point lead. Mickelson gave the Orediggers the lead for good with a kill that took the score to 23-22. An Allen shot for the Bears tangled in the net and Montana Tech owned set point. The Orediggers converted on a Taylor Henley block.
“I thought we played hard and I’m happy with that,” Solomon said. “We’ve been struggling, though, to close out opponents. Errors early in the set are hurting us at the end.
“This team will figure it out.”
Mickelson pounded 23 kills to lead all hitters in the match. Jessop backed her for Montana Tech with 18. Sydney Parks had nine kills and Henry notched eight. The Orediggers had 64 for the game, two more than Rocky Mountain.
McKenna Kaelber set 52 assists running the Montana Tech offense. The Orediggers fired six ace serves, two each by Kaelber, Hannah Oggerino and Emma Carvo. Oggerino led the floor defense with 23 digs, backed by Carvo with 16, Kaelber with 14 and Jessop with 13. Henley led in blocks with five, and Mickelson had four. Montana Tech goes into Saturday’s match with a 4-7 record, overall and in the Frontier. Friday’s loss was the Orediggers’ first this year in their home gym.
Oakland finished with 19 kills to lead Rocky Mountain, which also got 12 each from Allen and Wu. Hilderman put up 53 assists, Ayla Embry came up with 30 digs, and Oakland posted three blocks. None of the Bears’ servers were able to shoot an ace past or through the Orediggers’ serve-receive.