Herd edges Griz spikers

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. —  The Montana volleyball team rolled to a dominating opening-set win Saturday morning against Marshall, but the Thundering Herd pulled out a close second set and went on to a 15-25, 25-23, 25-14, 25-15 win in the second match of the season for both teams.

The Grizzlies (1-1), who defeated James Madison Friday night in five sets, will face Virginia (1-0) at 5 p.m. (MT) in the tournament’s final match. The Cavaliers host JMU Saturday afternoon.

Despite playing in the 10 a.m. match, Montana looked ready for prime time early on. The Grizzlies hit .429 in the opening set and committed just five total errors (hitting, serving, receiving and blocking) while getting kills from six different players.

Montana fell behind by as many as four points in the second set but found itself deadlocked at 23-23 at what turned out to be the turning point in the match.

Elyse Panick put down a kill for Marshall to make it 24-23, but only after the Grizzlies had two swings of their own to take the lead. A service ace for the Herd closed out the set, and Marshall had little trouble winning sets three and four.

“In the first and second sets I thought we came out and did the things we wanted to do,” UM coach Jerry Wagner said.

“We created an opportunity at 23-23 in set two to take two swings, and we weren’t aggressive enough. We’ve got to do more with those opportunities when we reach those points.”

After hitting .327 with just six attack errors through the opening two sets, Montana hit .055 in sets three and four and never held a lead in either set.

Marshall closed out the match by hitting .304 in the final two sets.

“Set three was a lineup mishap on my part,” Wagner said. “I did not have people in the order that I wanted them, and it cost us a little consistency in a number of points.

“In set four, (Marshall) was doing the same things they had been doing, and we never did anything to take those things away from them.”

Besides outhitting Montana .227 to .191, Marshall aided itself from the service line. The Herd had 10 aces in the match, the Grizzlies had zero.

“We need to be more aggressive in that area,” Wagner said. “Over the course of the match we didn’t handle the ball on a consistent enough basis, and we did not serve the ball aggressively enough to get them more out of system.”

Montana’s outside hitters, senior Kayla Reno and freshman Claire McCown on the left side and junior Kelsey Schile and freshman Michelle Robinson on the right, all hit well. They combined for 35 of the Grizzlies’ 41 kills and hit .222, with Reno finishing with 12 kills on .242 hitting.

The team’s middles, senior Brooke Bray and junior Natalie Jones, had 10 blocks but just six kills on 18 swings as Marshall focused on taking away that part of Montana’s attack.

“There were not a lot of middle sets, because that was part of our game plan going in,” Wagner said. “Our middles were attracting a lot of attention, so we were doing things to play around that.”

Playing in Montana’s 6-2 offense, senior Kortney James had 17 assists, Schile 11 and freshman Raegan Lindsey 8.

Laura Der, a first-team All-Conference USA performer last year, led Marshall with 15 kills on .263 hitting and 13 digs.

— Montana Sports Information