Diggers open tourney with sweep of Vanguard

By Bruce Sayler

Montana Tech opened its stay in the two-day Big Sky Volleyball Challenge with a rousing victory over ninth-ranked Vanguard Friday.

The Orediggers scored a decisive sweep, 25-15, 25-17, 25-15, over the NAIA power from Costa Mesa, California. Stats

Nicole Peacock slammed 11 kills to pace a balanced and fierce Montana Tech attack, and libero Sabrina Hopcroft came up with 16 digs as the Oredigger defense continually frustrated Vanguard hitters.

The win raised Montana Tech’s record to 4-1 while the Lions are winless through five matches this young season. The tournament, sponsored by Advantage Butte, is being held in the Civic Center with three courts going at a time in the 14-team event. The first two years of the tourney saw the matches split between the Montana Tech HPER Complex and the Carroll College P.E. Center in Helena. The whole shebang was moved to the Butte Civic Center this year.

“It was a heck of a start,” Brian Solomon, head coach of the Orediggers, said after the big win on Friday. “It was our best defensive match we’ve put together. We held them to 20 kills while we had 45.

“(Setter) Makenzie (Bauck) did a good job of spreading the ball around,. Nicole had 11 kills, but we had four others who were really close behind her. Then Sabrina had 16 digs.”

Katie Wiley and Gena McMillan boomed nine kills each and Jordan Danz and Bailee Cortner plastered seven apiece to back Peacock’s performance on offense.

“Bailee had one of her best blocking matches,” Solomon said. “She might’ve only had three blocks in the stats, but she controlled a lot that we played for points, too.”

Vanguard suffered a loss on the seventh serve of the match when Jessica Chase crumpled to the floor with what looked to be a type of leg or knee injury. Details were not yet available. The set was tied 3-all when the injury occurred.

“It is unfortunate that they had one of their players go down early in the match,” Solomon said.

Montana Tech closed out the first game with a strong block-and-kill game. The Orediggers’ net play opened a 15-9 lead with Danz hammering from the outside, andMcMillan and  Peacock leading the patrol inside. A Wiley kill made for a 23-15 command moments later and Cortner’s block set up game point. Danz clubbed home the winner.

Long serving runs by Danz and Hopcroft guided Montana Tech to a 14-4 early advantage in game two. Peacock and Wiley led the hit parade in scoring the Oredigger points. The Lions’ Amanda Sappington served a comeback for Vanguard that cut the margin to 18-14 with Chelsea Taylor nailing three kills in the surge. Cortner smacked a kill and Bauck aced a serve to stem the Vanguard comeback. The Orediggers’ attack and net defense kept Vanguard at bay while Montana Tech reached set point, 24-17, on a kill by Wiley and won the set on a kill by McMillan.

Vanguard hung with Montana Tech early in the third game before the Orediggers took the lead for good at 9-8 on a McMillan kill. They expanded it behind short serving runs and a good net game and floor defense. A block, then a kill, both by Cortner put the Montana Tech advantage at 18-11. Vanguard had no strong answer. The match reached match point when Butte’s Mariah Cooney tipped home a shot over the net. The score was 24-15 and Danz punctuated the effort with a floor-rattling kill to end the contest.

“It was a great way to start,” Solomon said of the win.

Bauck finished with 10 digs and 34 assists, and Danz registered three blocks. Vanguard leaders included Shaylen Larson-Piper with seven kills, Kelly Dalyrimple with 17 assists, Sappington with two aces, Sam Rice with eight digs and Taylor with four blocks.

Montana Tech played Dickinson State later Friday and is set to meet College of Idaho at 11 a.m. and Corban at 3 p.m. on Saturday’s slate. Corban is from Salem, Oregon.