By Bruce Sayler
Eastern Oregon was too good in this meeting as an experienced and well-meshed Mountaineers squad topped Montana Tech in a volleyball sweep.
The 28-26, 25-20, 25-22 decision was reached in night-time play at the 17-team Big Sky Challenge Volleyball Tournament Friday in the Butte Civic Center. The tourney will continue through Saturday evening on the recently bought three sports courts covering the floor. Stats
“They’re a really good defensive team and they were playing well,” Montana Tech head coach Brian Solomon of the NAIA 11th-ranked Mountaineers. “I thought we had really good glimpses in a lot of areas, but we need to play a little bit more together to be more complete.”
The Orediggers have several newcomers to their rotation following heavy graduation losses off their 2016 team.
Eastern Oregon didn’t blow Montana Tech out of any of the three games. It was just able to stymie the Orediggers at the end of each match and prevent long serving runs. The Mountaineers seemed uncanny in how they were able to consistently pop up receptions and digs high into the air, making for good attack placement for the hitters.
“And, I thought this one of our most complete games in passing,” Solomon said. “Serving is hurting us too often right now.”
In a contest with every point precious for a win, the Orediggers gave too many away on errant serves. The mistakes stifled rallies, too.
The closest game was the first and Montana Tech had already outlasted St. Francis of Indiana in a grueling five-set battle that included two sets that went extra serves earlier in the day. So, the Orediggers might have been a little tired in the evening match, especially as it progressed.
Still, in the first game, the Mountaineers didn’t take the lead for good until a tip by Isabelle Statkus broke a 26-all tie. A shot by Oredigger power hitter Heather Thompson carried long and the game ended.
Eastern Oregon took over the second set with a pair of strong serving runs by Madison Pilon. The first broke a 10-all knot and opened a four-point spread behind a kill and block by Madisen Garlie and two Montana Tech errors. The Orediggers battled back and pulled to within 20-19 when Thompson split the court with a kill. A Hannah Liss serve tangled in the net and put Pilon at the line where she served to Mountaineers to a 24-20 advantage helped by Garlie’s block and tip for points.
Two side-outs later, Amanda Miller nailed the winning kill.
Eastern Oregon built a 15-10 lead in the third set before Montana Tech reeled the Mountaineers back in with steadier play late in the match. A kill by Nicole Peacock narrowed the difference to 20-18. The teams traded points until Peacock plastered a serve for an ace that made her team’s deficit only a point, 22-21. A net violation cost Montana Tech a point, but Haley Druyvestein got it back with another middle kill. The Mountaineers won a handfight at the net for match point. A hard shot by Oredigger Masha Korol caught the net and Eastern Oregon gained the win.
“Against a good team, we were going the right direction in a lot of areas,” Solomon said. “(Saturday), will be some big challenges and we have ground to make up, We have to own our game a little better.”
The Eastern Oregon attack was balanced with Miller’s eight kills leading the team. Pilon set 20 assists and libero Kiley McMurtrey came up with a match-high 14 digs. Garlie notched seven blocks, including a solo.
Angela Molesworth led Montana Tech with 11 kills, most of any attackers. Peacock was next-high with nine. Kamaile Moody set 21 assists and Tori Chelini marked 17. Liss fired two aces. The team had 10 blocks, all on assists. Peacock and Druyvestein had six apiece. Libero Sabrina Hopcroft paced in digs with 11.
The Orediggers, now 4-2 for the season will play Multnomah of Portland, Oregon, on Saturday at 1 p.m. before closing the tourney with a 7 p.m. match with 10th-ranked Grand View of Des Moines, Iowa.