No. 1 Brownsville fights off Tech in volleyball

It might have been the best a Montana Tech volleyball team has played in a three-game loss when the Orediggers were swept by top-ranked defending NAIA champion Texas-Brownsville on Friday night.

Add to it was a vengeance motive for the Ocelots as the Brownsville station had been No. 1 in the poll until a loss to Rocky Mountain Friday morning, a defeat that will likely cost them the top spot.

The matches were played on the opening day of the Big Sky Volleyball Challenge college tournament being held at the HPER Complex on the Montana Tech campus in Butte, and at the Carroll College P.E. Center in Helena. The three non-Frontier members that were in action in Butte on Friday will travel to Helena Saturday, switching opponents with the three non-Frontier members who played there the first day.

“I think we got a little overwhelmed,” Montana Tech head coach Brian Solomon said after the Orediggers fell 25-22, 25-15, 25-21 to Texas-Brownsville in the first-day wrapup match of the showcase. “(The Ocelots) have some unbelievable players and we got a little wide-eyed a couple of times over what they could do.

“We played well, defensively, but their block is so wide we had a hard time finding shots. We served pretty well and we found a couple of spots, but they made a couple of adjustments that was all it took.”

The Orediggers dominated Dickinson State 25-14, 25-11, 25-12 earlier in the day.

Friday night’s match was the first between Montana Tech and Texas-Brownsville and the Orediggers tried to make it a more historic meeting than it already was.

The first game saw a willing Montana Tech squad stay with the reigning champs and even tied the score at 11-all on a Jordan Danz tip. The Ocelots went ahead on a block by Vanja Joksic, but never led by more than two points until going ahead 21-18 as Annelies Dokter drilled a kill shot.

The spread didn’t reach four points until another Dokter kill brought game point at 24-20. The Orediggers staved off the game-ender on tallies by Bailie Cortner, once on a kill and once on a block, before the Ocelots got a resounding kill shot by Mayra Ramirez, who got on top of the ball and smashed it to the middle of the court.

“They have a few All-Americans and it showed,” Solomon said.

They also have a far-reaching roster as the 6-ffot-1 Joksic hails from Gornji Milanovac, Serbia, the 6-1 Dokter is from Sleen, The Netherlands and the 6-1 Ramirez is from Cali, Colombia. The list also includes Nicole Gonzalez from Vega Alta, Puerto Rico; Tina Sekulic from Uzice, Serbia; Danielle Marques from Minas Gerais, Brazil; Dorien Den Otter from Groningen, The Netherlands; Valquiria Caboclo from Sao Paulo, Brazil; Anna Siruckova from Brno, Czech Republic; and Bojana Mitrovic from Novi Sad, Serbia. Four Americans round out the team — Heather Meeuwsen of Hillsboro, Oregon, Jennifer Kowalski and Karina Garcia, both of McAllen, Texas; and Ashlee Rodrigues of San Antonio.
Showing that the world does have the capability to work together, the Ocelots jumped out early on Montana Tech in the second game. They rolled out to a 7-2 edge on serving runs by Den Otter and Dokter helped by a strong block and Oredigger errors. Montana Tech rallied back and closed to 8-6 as Sydney Norris nailed a kill. However, the Ocelots leaped out well ahead again and registered game point at 24-15 on a kill by Dokter, who cut loose from the back row. Marques killed the game-ender.

The Orediggers had absorbed some big shots by this time but still were willing to compete. They actually led most of the third game, racing to a 6-1 advantage as Kimmy Kavran put together a five-point serving run on an ace serve, a block by Korey Krumm and three Brownsville errors.
Montana Tech maintained the lead of three to six points until Meeuwsen blasted an ace to cut the difference to 16-14. Shots by Norris and defense at the net by Krumm were key to the Orediggers challenging hard in the third game.

A wallop by the big-hitting Mitrovic tied the score at 17-all. However, Norris tipped home a winner to return the lead to Montana Tech. The action was repeated as Joksic belted a kill to knot the count only to have Norris pound home another kill for an Oredigger edge, 19-18.

However, the lead was Montana Tech’s last. A serving error by Oredigger Alison Lunde tied the score and then Ramirez and Dokter teamed on a big block to put the Ocelots ahead for the first time in the third game. The Ocelots scored two more times on kills by Ramirez and Dokter before a Dokter attempt sailed wide of the boundaries.

The Orediggers, trailing 22-20, were unable to cash in on the reprieve. Dokter clubbed another kill and Metrovic followed with a thump of her own to reach game point. Cortner answered with a kill shot of her own to delay the match finish a serve. Dokter ended it with a kill that capped a long rally that included hightlight-reel saves and shots by individuals on both teams.

“It’s fun playing these top-ranked teams,” Solomon said. “It helps us and will prepare us for the season.”

The coach admitted the schedule may not lighten much when Frontier Conference play arrives. Rocky Mountain, ranked 17th and favored to win the Frontier, knocked off both No. 1 Texas-Brownsville and No. 2 Concordia (Calif.) in Friday’s rounds.
Oredigger leaders against Texas-Brownsville included Cortner with 10 kills, Kavran with 20 digs, Makenzie Bauck with 16 assists, Lunde with 12, and Krumm and Haley Druyvestein with two blocks each.

Montana Tech was held to .044 hitting by the Brownsville block, but also limited the Ocelots to .219 hitting. Texas-Brownsville leaders included Joksic with 12 kills, Sekulic 29 assists, Meeuwsen two aces and 14 digs, and Ramirez with 7 seven blocks.
Montana Tech will play two more matches on Saturday at the HPER Complex, meeting College of Idaho at 11 a.m. and finishing with Biola, last year’s national runner-up, at 7 p.m.

Other matches at the HPER Complex on Saturday have Westminster playing California-Merced at 9 a.m., Rocky Mountain against Biola at 1 p.m., Westminster against College of Idaho at 3 p.m. and Rocky Mountain against California-Merced at 5 p.m.

Matches at Carroll have Great Falls against Concordia (Calif.) at 9 a.m., Carroll against Dickinson State at 11, Montana State-Northern against Texas-Brownsville at 1 p.m., Great Falls against Dickinson at 3, MSU-Northern against Concordia (Calif.) at 5 and Carroll against Texas-Brownsville at 7.

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