By Bruce Sayler
Fall sports fans will be served Wednesday.
The new season, at least in college women’s volleyball, has arrived. Montana Tech will begin with a tournament in Fullerton, California, with a lot of new faces on the roster causing another task in gelling a team for head coach Brian Solomon.
The Orediggers graduated All-American Mosha Korol and serving specialist Hannah Liss off of last year’s team and have since posted a roster void of seven other players that were on the 2018 roster. Included among the missing are net-row players Genesis Keith and Kacee James, both who were in the regular rotation in 2018. Courtney Bad Bear, Rachel Hadley and Nikayla Larson all saw considerable playing time last fall, too, and are not listed on the 2019 roster.
However, the team still returns considerable firepower, good on-court savvy and a big hitter from prior seasons who sat out a year ago. Solomon will have the opportunity to assess them in action beginning on Wednesday.
The Montana Tech season launches with an 11 a.m. first serve against John Brown University of Siloam Springs, Arkansas.Then, at 5 p.m., the Orediggers are matched against La Sierra of Riverside, California. They will play two matches on Thursday, as well, versus Westmont College of Santa Barbara, California, at 11 a.m., before closing against Embry Riddle of Prescott, Arizona, at 7 p.m.
The recent Frontier Conference volleyball coaches’ preseason poll predicted Montana Tech place third this season, behind Providence-Great Falls and Rocky Mountain. The Orediggers finished with a 17-15 record last year and ended their season with a loss to Providence-Great Falls in the semifinals of the Frontier Conference postseason tournament. Providence went on to win the tourney championship.
The attempts by buttesports.com to contact Solomon for details regarding the starting of the season failed. However, a look over the roster shows that 2018 regional honor able mention and Frontier all-Conference libero Sabrina Hopcroft leads the list of returnees for Montana Tech. Other top comebackers are all-conference middle blocker Heather Thompson, all-league second team hitter Karina Mickelson and front-row star Sydney Parks, who was honored by selection to the conference’s all-freshman team last year.
Hopcroft is a 5-foot-7 senior and fourth-year starter from Florence, Thompson a 5-11 senior from Lake Tapps, Washington, Mickelson a 6-0 junior from Laguna Niguel, California, and Parks a 6-3 sophomore from Post Falls, Idaho. Gena McMillan, a 5-9 power hitter on the outside from Huntington Beach, California, was a standout starter her freshman and sophomore seasons for the Orediggers before sitting out last season. She is back on the roster this year. Also back are 5-7 junior starting setter Kamaile Moody from Pasco, Washington, and Portia Cortner, a 6-0 sophomore from Red Lodge, who saw time off the bench last year.
The 2019 roster also includes 5-7 freshman libero Hannah Oggerino from Reno, Nevada, 6-1 freshman outside hitter Maureen Jessop from Corvallis, 5-4 freshman setter Emma Carvo from Idaho Falls, Idaho, 5-9 freshman middle blocker Logan Reed from Oakesdale, Washington, 5-11 freshman setter McKenna Kaelber from Pasco, Washington, 6-0 freshman Zoe Cortner from Red Lodge, 5-11 sophomore outside hitter Kiya Loobey from Cypress, Texas, 6-1 freshman middle blocker Taylor Henley from Kalispell, and 5-4 freshman defensive specialist Hudsyn DiBrito from Florence.
The Cortners are twin sisters. While Portia played as a true freshman last year, Zoe redshirted the 2018 season. Their older sister, Bailie, was a standout for the Orediggers 2013-16.
This season is Solomon’s eighth at the helm of the Montana Tech program and goes in with a record of 128-89 in the seven-year tenure. He is 222-161 overall as a college volleyball head coach.
His assistant, Butte High and Montana Tech graduate Kristi (Witt) Arntson is entering her seventh on the coaching staff. She was selected Frontier Conference assistant coach of the year in 2018.
The Orediggers will return to Butte after the Fullerton tournament to start the home portion of their schedule with the August 22-24 Big Sky Volleyball Challenge tournament in the Butte Civic Center.