North Dakota sweeps Grizzlies

MISSOULA — In a matchup of two of the Big Sky Conference’s hottest teams, North Dakota used a potent offensive attack to defeat Montana Saturday night in straight sets at the West Auxiliary Gym, 25-20, 25-23, 25-18.

North Dakota (6-7, 2-0 BSC), a team that somehow started the season 1-6 despite returning all its starters from a very good team last year, won for the fifth time in six matches and handed Montana (4-7, 1-1 BSC), which had won three of four, just its second 3-0 loss of the season.

UND, which won at Montana State in four sets on Friday, swept the Montana road trip, giving it an early advantage through the opening weekend of league matches.

Montana looked sharp in defeating Northern Colorado in three sets on Friday, but it was a different Grizzly team that showed up just 24 hours later in what could have been a statement weekend.

North Dakota put down 50 kills and hit .288 while Montana was sporadic in its passing and struggled to find any offensive rhythm. The Grizzlies totaled just 27 kills on .064 hitting.

“They did exactly what we were expecting, and we didn’t match their intensity. That’s what it came down to,” UM coach Jerry Wagner said.

“We knew they were going to be a physical team with strong, established players at every position. They did what they do best, and for whatever reason we were unable to match the intensity that we were able to play with last night.”

Montana was an extension of its Friday form early. The Grizzlies built a pair of six-point leads in the opening set, but North Dakota was the better team the final two and a half sets.

Montana matched North Dakota on the block and out-dug UND by two, but the Grizzlies struggled with their passing and hit their lowest percentage of the season.

“Our ball-handling was way below where it’s been, and that’s why it was going to be a struggle to excel in any other facet of the game tonight,” Wagner said. “They hit the number I was expecting us to hit.”

North Dakota’s senior middle blockers, Ronni Munkeby and Lisa Parlich, were the best players on the floor, and they were almost enough to win the match themselves. They combined for 24 kills, just three fewer than Montana’s entire team, on .381 hitting.

“Their two middles beat us,” Wagner said.

UND also had high-jumping freshman outside hitter Anna Pioske, who had 11 kills on .320 hitting. It was enough to outpoint Montana, which didn’t have a player record double-digit kills.

Senior Kayla Reno led Montana with eight kills, but they came on .028 hitting. They were, however, enough to put the outside hitter over the 1,000 kills mark for her career.

Freshman outside hitter Claire McCown had five kills on .143 hitting and three blocks. Senior Brooke Bray, the Big Sky Conference leader in the category, led the Grizzlies with four blocks. And the Grizzlies matched a season high with seven service aces and did it with no service errors.

Montana will play at Portland State (4-7, 1-0 BSC) and Eastern Washington (4-8, 1-0 BSC) next weekend.

— Montana Sports Information