Griz spikers fall in three

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.  — Virginia hit .392 and defeated Montana in three sets Saturday night in the title match of the Jefferson Cup 25-16, 25-22, 25-23. The Cavaliers claimed their own tournament by winning nine of the 10 sets they played.

Montana, James Madison and Marshall all finished the tournament with records of 1-2.

Despite defeating James Madison in five sets Friday night and going four in a loss to Marshall Saturday morning, it was Montana’s play against the tournament champions that Griz coach Jerry Wagner would like to see his team duplicate going into next weekend’s tournament at Washington State and beyond.

Montana hit .323 in Saturday’s loss, a percentage reached just once in 29 matches a year ago.

“We played our best volleyball of the weekend in this match, and it was a great brand of volleyball,” he said. “We talked about being aggressive over longer periods of time, and we did that tonight, and because of it we were right there going back and forth.

“I’m highly encouraged. I think the kids realized that it was a good breakthrough for us.”

Virginia was in firm control for much of set one and jumped out to an 18-7 lead in set two, and it looked like the Cavaliers were in for their easiest match of the tournament. Not so.

Montana came to life and scored 11 of the set’s next 16 points, forcing a Virginia timeout, UVA’s first of the match.

The Grizzlies crept to within 23-20 on a kill by senior Kayla Reno and 24-22 on a kill from sophomore Capri Richardson. A Virginia kill ended the set, but Montana continued its momentum into set three.

The Grizzlies built a lead of 18-13 before Virginia rallied back to tie it at 19-19. From there the teams went back and forth until tournament MVP Tori Janowski scored the set’s final two points on a service ace and kill.

After hitting .276 in the opening set, Montana improved to .333 in set two and .353 in set three. Six of the seven Griz players who took at least seven swings in the match hit .250 or better.

Montana’s middles, who were set limited times in Saturday’s loss to Marshall, came up big against Virginia. Senior Brooke Bray, junior Natalie Jones and sophomore Capri Richardson, who was playing her first match of the season, combined for 14 kills on .591 hitting.

Montana hit .246 for the tournament, a vast improvement over last year’s .176 season-long performance. Of course the Grizzlies allowed their opponents to hit .290 over three matches, a number that won’t lead to many wins, but it was the offense that had Wagner excited.

“Two times this weekend we were at the number we are looking for, to be .225 or better as a team,” he said. “If we play this aggressively and go for it like this against anyone in our conference, I like where we’re headed.”

Reno, who was named to the all-tournament team along with junior Kelsey Schile, led Montana with 11 kills against Virginia and averaged 3.0 kills per set for the tournament.

Schile had four kills on .273 hitting against the Cavaliers with 19 assists. For the weekend she averaged 2.08 kills per set and totaled 32 assists.

Montana will face Texas Tech, South Dakota and Washington State next weekend at WSU’s tournament at Pullman, Wash.

— Montana Sports Information