Block party springs Tech volleyball over Vanguard

Block party springs Tech volleyball over Vanguard

By Bruce Sayler 

Montana Tech was a formidable volleyball team by Saturday night. 

The Orediggers played their fourth match of the season and their fourth of their Big Sky Volleyball Challenge on Saturday in the HPER Complex and had rounded into form for a four-set win against regular national contender Vanguard, from Costa Mesa, California. 

Montana Tech cruised in the first two sets, stumbled in the third and then outscrapped the Lions in the fourth. Set scores were 25-18, 25-16, 23-25, 26-24. (Stats)

“Yes, we had some really good things that we did tonight,” Brian Solomon, Orediggers head coach, said in a happy tone while the crowd filed out of the Montana Tech HPER Complex. “Our blocking was so strong and gave some game opportunities for the team. We came out blocking really well.” 

The Montana Tech blockers posted 16 of the stoppers, including nine by Alexis Umland and five by Taylor Henley in a strong frontline showing. Maureen Jessop’s 22 kills also made for a frontliners’ showcase. 

The 13th-ranked Orediggers went 3-1 In the meet with their only loss a close four-setter to No. 9-ranked Viterbo on Thursday.  

“We definitely have to do some things in our serving game,” Solomon said. “We dug ourselves a hole in the last game.  

“Our middles were active in our blocking game and tilted the match our way.” 

 Jessop’s first kill and a rash of Vanguard errors staked Montana Tech to a 5-1 lead to begin the match. The Lions clawed back, but never caught up in the set. The Orediggers owned a seven-point lead, 22-15, after a tip by Roslyn Zentz. Vanguard battled to within 22-17 before a tip by Megan Benton made it set point. A service error turned the possession back to the Lions, but Hailey Peterson basted a shot past the end line and Montana Tech owned a 1-0 lead in the match. 

The Orediggers led all of the second set, too. They built the lead to 4-1, again on a Jessop kill and some Vanguard errors. The difference was pretty static until Logan Reed served a four-point lead toward the Orediggers’ 22-13 bulge. Emma Carvo aced a serve for set point, 24-14, and, two serves later, Benton bashed the kill. It ended the set and Montana Tech was cruising at 2-0 in the match score. 

“The game shifted gears when Vanguard changed some things up at the third set,” Solomon said. 

It took off for a 6-3 lead in the change of tempo as Cambria Fernandez and Delaney Hill led the uprising. They held a lead until Jessop blasted a kill to forge a 12-all tie. Montana Tech gained the lead on a block by Henley and widened it a bit to 20-17 on another Carvo ace. 

Callie Bickmore thumped a kill for the Lions that tied the count at 20-all. The teams went point-for-point to a 24-23 edge Vanguard gained on Petersen’s pounding of a 50-50 ball. Hill followed with a kill and the Lions had won a set. 

The competition remained intense and tight through the fourth set. Montana Tech seemed to have gotten command at 21-16 after another Benton kill. The Lions scrapped back and caught the Orediggers at match point, tying the set at 24-all when a Benton shot sailed wide of the court. 

A sharp return by Umland in a flurry at the net caused Vanguard to commit a four-hit violation and then the Orediggers won the set and match on a punctuating kill by Jessop. 

Henley had seven kills for second on the team to Jessop. Zentz had 41 assists. Jessop augmented her kill total with 13 digs, second on the team behind the 15 posted by libero Jelena Jablanov. 

Hill was Vanguard’s kills leader with 11, Rachel Lim set 20 assists, Blair Dodge scooped 22 digs and Petersen paced the Lions in blocks with four. 

“It was a really successful tournament,” Solomon said. “It had a lot of high-level teams and I got a lot of positive feedback from the coaches and the teams.” 

The meet was originally scheduled to be played in the Butte Civic Center, but was moved to the HPER Complex and the Maroon Activities Center due to the Civic Center being used for work relating to the producing of the coming “1923” TV miniseries.he  

“It was big logistics challenge, but we still had some really nice venues,” Solomon said. “We got a lot of help from Butte (government), the Butte community and from our other coaches and staff up here at Montana Tech. We had some good-sized crowds. 

“It was successful.” 

The Orediggers will go to Great Falls this week for a series of non-conference matches, playing Jamestown of North Dakota on Thursday, then Arizona Christian Friday morning and The Master’s University of California Friday evening. 

#2 Mo Jessop for the kill


#12 Roslyn Zentz for the set to #7 Taylor Henley as Jessop stands ready

#2 Alexis Umland tips the ball for point

#12 Zentz sets the ball as #15 libero Jelena Jablonov stands ready

#8 setter McKenna Kaelber sets to #13 Kali Gulick

#11 Olivia Cady saves a long ball

#7 middle Taylor Henley slams a kill

Team celebrates a kill for point

Coach Brian Solomon enjoys a time out with his team

Block party #7 Taylor Henley and #17 Megan Benton

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