The Montana volleyball team hit .130 and dropped a four-set decision to Texas Tech Friday morning in the opening match of the Cougar Challenge at Pullman, Wash., 24-26, 21-25, 25-23, 14-25. The Grizzlies will play South Dakota Friday afternoon in their second and final match of the day.
The win was the fifth straight for Texas Tech (5-1) since losing to Seattle in its opener. It was the third straight loss for Montana (1-3) after the Grizzlies opened the season with a 3-2 victory over James Madison last Friday at Virginia’s tournament.
Montana had its best defensive outing of the season Friday, more than doubling up Tech’s blocking numbers and recording six more digs than the Red Raiders, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a disjointed offensive performance.
The Grizzlies hit .246 in their three matches in Charlottesville last weekend, but suspect serve reception on Friday morning led to a .130 hitting percentage.
Seniors Kayla Reno and Megan Murphey were solid in the backcourt, but without redshirt freshman Sadie Ahearn, who was injured in Virginia the morning of Montana’s first match last weekend, the Grizzlies’ passing has not found any consistency.
“Until we get a third passer, we’re going to be very sporadic,” UM coach Jerry Wagner said. “We have good hitting potential, and we have good setters, but good setting can’t turn poor passing into a good enough offense against these types of teams.”
And still Montana had its opportunities against Texas Tech. The opening set was tied at 24-24 until back-to-back kills gave the Red Raiders the win, and the Grizzlies came out strong in the second set and built an 8-3 lead, but a 13-2 run put Tech in control.
Montana’s lone victory came in the third set, a tight game that featured 15 ties. The final deadlock came when a Griz service error allowed the Red Raiders to even the score at 23-23. Tech gave the service error right back, and juniors Natalie Jones and Kelsey Schile combined on a block for set point.
Texas Tech jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the final set and hit .280 on its way to an easy victory.
For the second time this season Montana failed to record a single service ace. On the other side, the Red Raiders had eight, giving the Grizzlies’ opponents this season 34 aces to UM’s 10.
“Obviously I’m disappointed in our serve reception after working on it all week, and I’m disappointed we didn’t serve the ball well,” Wagner said.
“We dug the ball better and blocked lights out, but until we get our passing shored up, we’re going to be too sporadic offensively.”
The loss overshadowed a tremendous blocking effort by Montana. Jones had a career-high 10 blocks, while Schile and senior Brooke Bray both finished with six. Schile added 18 assists, 10 digs and 7 kills on team-high .316 hitting.
Senior Kayla Reno, who had her second double-double of the season, led Montana for the fourth time in four matches with 13 kills but on .085 hitting. She also added a team-high 14 digs and had three blocks.
Texas Tech hit .200 for the match and totaled 19 more kills than Montana.
Montana’s match against South Dakota (2-2) on Friday begins at 3:30 p.m. (MT). It will be the Coyotes’ first match of the tournament.
— Montana Sports Information