Griffins top Tech despite new Kavran record

Montana Tech volleyball players were not feeling well on Saturday, and Westminster did nothing to cheer their conditions.

The Griffins defeated Montana Tech 25-18, 25-22, 23-25, 25-20 in a well-played Frontier Conference match at the HPER Complex.

Standout freshman libero Kimmy Kavran was bothered by an illness early in the week, and freshman Mikayla Sullivan missed Saturday’s match with similar symptoms. Other Orediggers also were ailing, but not enough to leave them on the bench. Some did, however, lose some practice time.

Consequently, Montana Tech head coach  Brian Solomon was not entirely displeased with the loss.

“Overall, it was a good day,” he said. “We had to battle some adversity this week with the illness and missing  some players.

“Katie Tabaracci, a freshman hitter for us, stepped in and played very well today. Kimmy played very well. Shersteen Cline hit well from the outside.”

Kavran broke a school record for the second time this season. She registered 43 digs despite being sick earlier in the week. The 42 she posted in the conference opener against Montana Western, an Oredigger win, had bettered the school record of 40 that was held by Bekah Hudson.

“They have some really, really good servers,” Kavran said. “We practiced and practiced (against) the deep serves this week. They’re a good serving team, but I think wee handled them.”

Kavran took over at libero for two-year starter Allyse Cruise, who along with fellow senior Kendra Lyons, have recently left the program. Kavran has been starting all fall.

“It’s my first year of college volleyball and I’m really enjoying it,” Kavran said. “It’s a faster pace and harder hits. But I played middle-back in high school and it’s nice going back to something I’ve spent my whole life at.”

Westminster, though, had a little more umph up front this match and the Orediggers needed to be at the very top of their game to defeat the experienced and talented Griffins. Rachel Enloe and Ashley Maarchand hammered 11 kills apiece for thr Griffins. Emily Atkinson set 39 assists and dug up 21 balls. Marchand sizzled a pair of aces. Montana Tech answered with Kavran’s record digs, Cline’s 15 kills, Tabaracci’s 12 kills, Allison Lunde’s 38 assists and Korey Krumm’s two blocks.

“The girls battled really, really hard,” Solomon said. “We came back in the third game and came up just short in the fourth.”

Westminster kept a small cushion between it and Montana Tech through the first game. Alexis Aalona’s and Katie Vance’s hitting led the net play and the Griffins let little hit the floor in a defensive effort. The widest spread was 15-9 after a Kenzie Mitchell kill for Westminster. The Griffins reached game point at 24-18 on a kill by Enloe before an error off serve receive by the Orediggers ended the set.

The second game was more disappointing for Montana Tech in that it rallied well to take a lead on Westminster before being overcome by a Griffins’ comeback. The Orediggers went ahead 19-18 on a kill by Tabaracci and got the difference to 21-18 as Aalona hit long and then Cline placed in a tip. The Griffins, however, caught up at 22-all on a block by Stephanie Jones-Morin and took the lead on an Enloe kill.  Marchant served it out for Westminster, nailing an ace with one serve and seeing the last finish on an Aalona kill.

The Orediggers didn’t get the third game get away in such a manner. A block by Norris secured the 25-23 set win. Montana Tech had gotten to game point at 24-22 on a Lacey Phelan block. Westminster answered with a Mitchell kill before Norris’ block. The Orediggers took the lead at 18-17 when Jones-Morin hit a shot too far. The Orediggers maintained a narrow distance the rest of the way in the game.

It was Westminster’s turn to deny in the fourth. The Griffins gained the final edge at 8-7 when a shot by  Krumm was ruled just wide of inbounds. Westminster was able to stay ahead and deflected the constant Oredigger challenge. The Griffins gripped game point at 24-20 when Mitchell and Aalona combined on a block against Cline. A series of off-balance exchanges followed on the next serve and a soft return by Cline settled into the net, unable to clear it.

Westminster is 2-1 in Frontier matches and 9-5 for the season. Montana Tech is 1-2 and 11-4.

Westminster def Montana Tech 25-18, 25-22, 23-25, 25-20

Kills — Westminster 52 (Ashley Marchand 11, Rachel Enloe 11, Kenzie Mitchell 8, Katie Vance 7, Alexis Aalona 7, Stephanie Jones-Morin 5, Madison Raines 2, Emily Atkinson 1), Montana Tech 51 (Shersteen Cline 15, Katie Tabaracci 12, Sydney Norris 9, Korey Krumm 9, Lacey Phelan 5, Alison Lunde 1). Assists — Westminster 46 (Atkinson 39, Marchant 2, Kyndall Kordakis 2, Raines 1, Aalona 1, Alyse Horton 1), Montana Tech 44 (Lunde 38, Kimmy Kavran 5, Phelan 1). Aces — Westminster 4 (Marchant 2, Atkinson 1, Mitchell 1), Montana Tech 1 (Norris). Digs — Westminster 97 (Atkinson 21, Aalona 18, Marchant 17, Kordakis 17, Enloe 7, Mitchell 7, Jones-Morin 3, Raines 2, Horton 2, Vvance 1, Connor Wilkinson 1), Montana Tech 90 (Kavran 43, Norris 19, Phelan 14, Lunde 5, Kirstin King 5, Krumm 3, Cline 1). Blocks — Westminster 8 (Andrea Christensen 2, Vance 1, Marchant 1, Jones-Morin 1, Horton 1, Mitchell 1, Jessica Chellsen 1), Montana Tech 5 (Krumm 2, Norris 1, Cline 1, Phelan 1).