By Bruce Sayler
Montana Tech true freshman Rosalyn Zentz was in a foreign land when she slapped the match-winner home Friday against Cornerstone University.
On a roster loaded with six seniors and four juniors. Zentz found herself on the spot and facing the big shot. She executed and the Orediggers owned a 25-15, 25-23, 27-25 sweep over the Golden Eagles in a non-conference match played at the Montana Tech HPER Complex as part of the Big Sky Volleyball Challenge.
Senior hitter Maureen Jessop led a late surge for the Orediggers that rallied her team into extra serves and the eventual 27-25 win.
Cornerstone, from Grand Rapids, Michigan had led 24-22 after an ace serve by Miranda German had the Golden Eagles standing on set point. The No. 13-ranked Orediggers had already prevailed in the first two sets, but faced extension of play from Cornerstone, which had progressively played better and better as the match proceeded.
A Jessop kill ended German’s four-point serving run that seemingly positioned the Eagles for a set win. Anaconda freshman Malia Harris served for Montana Tech and Logan Reed backed her with a kill that knotted the score at 24-all. However, the next serve tangled in the net and the side-out went to Cornerstone.
Another Jessop kill returned serve to the Orediggers and reknotted the score at 25-all. Senior Emma Carvo stepped into the server’s role for Montana Tech and Jessop hammered another kill for a one-point, 26-25 edge.
A longer rally ensued as the competition dwindled into a hand fight at the net between the teams’ front-row players batting the ball back and forth. Zentz stepped into the swirl and found the ball in front of her, floating over the net from the other side. She got enough hand on it to tip it into an empty spot, where the ball landed and cinched the Montana Tech sweep.
“It was really good to win and have everybody play well at the end,” Zentz, a newcomer from Ashford, Washington, said. “It was helpful to have so many upperclassmen out there at a time like that, when it’s tight.”
The match-ender was sheer reaction on her part, Zentz said.
“I’m usually just trying to get the stuff up the middle,” she said. “(The ball) just kind of popped up in front of me. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I just hit.”
The win gave Montana Tech a 1-1 record going into a Friday evening match with Bushnell.
The match with Cornerstone began as a breeze. The Golden Eagles never led in a set until the third one.
The Orediggers jumped out to a 6-1 command in the first set with Reed, Taylor Hensley and Jessop all blasting kills. A Jessop serving run helped stretch the lead to 10-2 as Cornerstone hurt itself with errors. Montana Tech enjoyed a 17-7 margin after a Regan Walters shot for the Golden Eagles sailed wide o the court.
Set point arrived at 24-14 on a shot by Walters that traveled long. After Olivia Keelean scored on a kill for Cornerstone, Montana Tech ended the set on a block by Alexis Umland.
The Orediggers jumped ahead 4-1 to start the second set with Henley, Jessop and Reed hitting for points again. Olivia LeBeau entered the Montana Tech lineup and quickly tallied three straight points on a tip, placement kill and another tip. The margin was 10-3, but the Golden Eagles soon began clawing back.
Emma Whitley served a Cornerstone run for five points to whittle the gap to 22-19. Walters and Kaylee Dykema provided most of the offensive support. Minutes later, Walters took over serve and fired an ace to close the difference to 23-21 before the Golden Eagles tied the Orediggers on a kill and a block, both by Dykema.
Montana Tech huddle and regrouped and got set point on a kill by Umland before Olivia Muir finished the set with a kill.
“I think they had a slow start and we started well,” Zentz said, “and it can be easy to get lackadaisical. Fortunately, we were able to pull it back out.”
Having re-found its game and riding some momentum and new confidence, Cornerstone matched points with Montana Tech in the third game, taking its first lead of the match at 3-2 on a Dykema kill. Neither team led by more than two points until the Golden Eagles built a slight, three-point edge near the end before the Orediggers forced extra serves and gained the victory.
Jessop finished with 10 kills and Muir nine to pace Montana Tech. Zentz had 31 assists. Muir also posted five blocks and Henley had four. Libero Jelena Jablanov notched 16 digs.
The Golden Eagles were led by Walters with 13 kills, two aces and 18 digs, Dykema with five blocks and Aubrey Lenz with 31 assists.
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