New Montana Tech head volleyball coach Brian Solomon said he didn’t think Thursday’s home opener was as sharply played by his team as it should have been. However, Oredigger backers were duly pleased with the 22-25 26-24, 25-23, 22-25, 15-10 victory over Montana Western.
The close, intense five-setter played in the Montana Tech HPER Complex was also the Frontier Conference opener for both teams. The two rivals met earlier in the year with the Orediggers winning the non-conference match played in Dillon.
“I think nerves got the best of us tonight,“ Solomon said. “But anytime you can grind out a win it’s OK.“
True freshman libero Kimmy Kavran led the Oredigger defensive effort by coming up with 42 digs, breaking the single-match school record of 40 that was held by Bekah Hudson.
“Kimmy had a huge game in breaking the record,” Solomon said. “That’s not bad for a freshman in her first home game.”
The Montana Tech computerized statistic-keeping system was problematic and so full stats were not available Thursday night. Ones Montana Tech did have available as kept on the bench included the win being led offensively by Korey Krumm and Shersteen Cline with 14 kills apiece, and Sydney Norris with 12.
“Korey came up very big in sets we won,” Solomon said of the sophomore from Anaconda.
Western showed a strong hitting team on the arms of Breanne Kelley, Bailey Branson, Brea Mitchell and Emily Erickson. Shelby Mack played well at libero and Paige Latimer was goodt setter.
“Overall, I thought we struggled serving tonight,” Solomon said. “It was good to see we could win when we weren’t playing as well. Western was well-prepared and that was obvious.”
Montana Tech reached game point at 14-6 in the fifth game on an ace serve by Katie Tabaracci. The Orediggers then had to withstand a four-point rally by Western before Norris smashed a kill shot through the attempted block of Bulldog Erickson. The shot fell in for the point as well as for the game and match win. Kelley scored three times for Western in its late rally, twice on hard kills after she placed a tip perfectly.
Kelley’s kill shot that smashed through a Montana Tech block scored the winning point for Montana Western in the first game. The Bulldogs took the lead for good at 15-14 on a kill by Branson. Mack and Branson serving runs pushed the Western lead to 23-19 and a Kelley kill brought 24-20 game point after Krumm stuffed a Bulldog attempt. Two kills by Krumm staved off the game loss before Kelley powered her shot through the defense.
The play of senior Lacey Phelan and freshman Mikayla Sullivan at the net helped force Western into two hitting mistakes that closed the second game, the Orediggers winning 26-24. Montana Tech led most of the set until Mitchell served the Bulldogs back to even. Western reached game point on a Latimer tip after a hard shot had ricocheted back to her. Cline clobbered a kill for Montana Tech to square the score before attempts by Branson went past the end line, then into the net as she tried to hit against the Phelan-Sullivan double block.
Cline snapped a 23-all tie in the third game with a placement kill for game point and followed with another as the Orediggers won the third game. Montana Tech had a 21-16 lead before the Bulldogs rallied behind the serving of Mack. Oredigger errors and Western blocking carried the run that reached a 21-all knot as Mitchell blocked for the tying point. However, Krumm blocked for Montana Tech after the next serve and briought on the point-trading prior to Cline’s winners.
Western evened the games with the 25-22 win in the fourth one. The Bulldogs held small leads in the close game, but trailed 20-18 late after a strong Kirstin King serving run for Montana Tech. Erickson hit a kill to even the score at 20, and Western, soon after, grabbed a 24-21 edge after a Mitchell kill and Branson ace. Norris nailed a kill for Montana Tech before Erickson put down the set-winner for Western.
The win gave Montana Tech an 11-2 season record while going to 1-0 in league play. The Orediggers will play at Lewis-Clark State in Lewiston, Idaho, on Saturday. Western fell to 0-1 in the Frontier and 5-8 for the season. The Bulldogs will play at Westminster in Salt Lake City on Saturday.