Bears battle past Orediggers in four sets

Montana Tech volleyball coach Brian Solomon could point to the exact moment things started to unravel for the Orediggers Friday night at the HPER Complex.

The Orediggers were tied at 17 with No. 4 Rocky Mountain College in a Frontier Conference match.

Then Rocky’s Mariah Stiffarm, a 6-foot-3 middle blocker, stuffed a Sydney Norris hit to put the Battlin’ Bears up 18-17. That started an 8-1 run where the Bears closed out the first set with a 25-18 win.

The Orediggers bounced back to win the second set 25-19, but Rocky closed out the four-set victory with wins of 25-12, 25-17. Box Score

“Against a good team, you can’t drop the one you had the opportunity to get,” Solomon said. “You have to take advantage of that.”

The Orediggers, playing without injured middle blocker Haley Druyvestein, who tore an ACL earlier in the season, couldn’t stay consistent after the second set.

“There were a lot of good stretches,” Solomon said. “We played really, really well in that first set until about 18. We played a really good second set. After that it was up and down.”

The best Oredigger stretch of the night definitely came in the second set when Norris pounded nine of her match-high 17 kills.

That is the same number of blocks the Bears put up, however. That was a big reason the Orediggers couldn’t find their rhythm.

“We swinging and trying to have an opportunity to win, and they made some big blocks,” Solomon said.

The Tech coach also had some praise for Rocky defensive specialist Brooke Myers, who collected 21 digs.

“Their libero played really well,” Solomon said. “She made some great digs. They had a lot of point-saving digs.”

Ahlea Billis’15 kills led the Rocky attack. Stiffarm added 13.

Karina Mickelson added 10 kills for the Orediggers, who also got eight kills from Bailie Cortner and six from Kylee Berridge.

Makenzie Bauck dished up 46 assists, while Brianna Nabbout collected 25 digs.

First-place Rocky improved to 9-1 in conference and 24-5 overall. Tech fell to 4-6 and 16-11.

The Orediggers will close out the season with home matches against MSU-Northern and Montana Western next weekend.

The Frontier Conference tournament is the following week in Helena.

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