LUBBOCK, Texas — Eight days after losing to Texas Tech in four sets at Washington State’s tournament, Montana turned the tables on the Red Raiders and opened the Lone Star Showdown with a 3-0 victory over Tech Friday on its home court.
The win snapped Montana’s (2-5) five-match losing streak and sent Texas Tech (5-6), which had improved to 5-1 with its earlier victory over the Grizzlies, to its fifth straight loss.
Montana hit .188 in the 25-16, 27-25, 25-18 victory, below its pre-match season hitting percentage of .210, but the Grizzlies more than made up the difference with a fantastic defensive effort.
Montana out-dug Texas Tech, doubled up the Red Raiders on the block and held Tech to just one service ace and a .122 hitting percentage.
“We talked before the match about having a complete effort, and we showed up this morning in every area,” UM coach Jerry Wagner said. “Everyone was locked in, and it was very satisfying to see. I couldn’t be prouder.”
Freshman Claire McCown, of Spice Wood, Texas, led Montana with 13 kills on .312 hitting. And it was a match McCown was not scheduled to start or see much playing time.
Sophomore Gabby Crowell, who averaged 2.6 kills on .219 hitting and 2.4 digs in Montana’s final two matches last weekend at Pullman, Wash., had earned the starting nod, but she came down with a fever during the team’s travel to Lubbock and remained Friday morning at the team hotel.
McCown, who was making a return to her home state and playing her first collegiate match in front of her dad, Troy, stepped in and gave Montana its identity early, with three kills and no errors on eight swings in the opening set.
“Claire stepped in and was gangbusters,” Wagner said. “We hit aggressively the entire match, and I credit Claire for that. She attacked the block right from the start.”
The match also marked the debut of redshirt freshman defensive specialist Sadie Ahearn, whose first-time presence played an important role in Montana holding an opponent to sub-.200 hitting for the first time this season and its first opponent to fewer than five service aces.
Ahearn, who suffered an ankle injury the morning of Montana’s season-opening match in Charlottesville, Va., finished with nine digs and one service ace.
“A lot of what Sadie brings us is unaccounted for in the box score,” Wagner said. “We controlled our digs today and we covered our hitters, and that created a ton of extra opportunities for us to keep things moving in the right direction.”
Montana led 15-14 in the opening set before McCown put her stamp on the match. She had all three of her kills in the set down the stretch as the Grizzlies scored 10 of the final 12 points to pull away.
McCown provided the late-set dramatics in the second game as well. Tech led 19-14, but four kills from McCown sparked a rally that tied the set at 23-23.
Though the Red Raiders twice had set-point opportunities, it was the Grizzlies that pulled out the win on kills by senior Kortney James and junior Kelsey Schile.
Montana jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the third set and never trailed while hitting .324.
The win gave the Grizzlies their first victory since defeating James Madison in five sets to open the season.
James finished with 34 assists, and senior libero Megan Murphey added 18 digs, both excellent numbers for a three-set match. James also added 13 digs and two blocks.
Senior Kayla Reno had 10 kills and four blocks, junior Natalie Jones led Montana’s effort at the net with five blocks, and senior Brooke Bray had nine kills on .350 hitting and three blocks.
Montana will face Cal State Fullerton Friday at 3:30 p.m. (MT). The Titans (5-2) were scheduled to play Nevada in the match that followed Montana and Texas Tech.
— Montana Sports Information