Montana Tech’s volleyball team is one good weekend away from the NAIA national tournament.
The Orediggers are in Great Falls for the Frontier Conference tournament. The winner of the single-elimination competition receives an automatic berth into the national tournament, which is Dec. 3-7 in Sioux City, Iowa.
Tech opens play at 7 p.m. Friday against Lewis-Clark State at the McLaughlin Center. The tournament actually began Thursday when Montana Western swept Dickinson State in a play-in match.
“We have a lot of opportunity in front of us,” Montana Tech coach Brian Solomon said. “If we stay relaxed we can do good things.”
Calling the Orediggers a “young” team is an understatement. Tech doesn’t have a senior on the team that finished the regular season at 17-12 overall and 7-9 in conference.
“They’re still young and they’re still learning,” Solomon said of his squad, which finished sixth in the Frontier regular season.
Tech takes on the No. 3-seeded Warriors (18-12, 11-4), a team that beat Tech in four games twice this season.
Tech had opportunities early in both of those matches.
“They’re a very talented team,” Solomon said. “If both teams play well it will be a tight match.”
The Orediggers enter the tournament with a lot of talent on their side, too.
Junior Korey Krumm leads the Frontier in hitting percentage. The Anaconda native is one of six Orediggers with more than 130 kills on the season.
Krumm leads the team and is ranked 10th in the league with 272 kills. Sydney Norris (243), Jordan Danz (238), Annie Smoot (175), Haley Druyvestein (142) and Bailie Cortner (132) have also put up big numbers. Samantha Hutcheson registered 90 kills.
Cortner, Krumm and Druyvestein also rank among the league leaders in blocks.
For the second straight year, sophomore libero Kimmy Kavran led the Frontier in digs with 634. Alison Lunde and Mackenzie Bauck split up the majority of the Tech assists.
MSU-Northern (24-5, 15-1) is the top seed. The Skylights only loss came to Westminster College (16-13, 10-6), the No. 4 seed that enters the tournament red hot.
Rocky Mountain College (21-6, 13-3) is the No. 2 seed, while Carroll College (17-17, 9-7) is No. 5. Host Great Falls (9-21, 4-12) is the No. 7 seed, while Western is No. 8 after Thursday’s win.
Dickinson State (4-27, 0-16) concluded its unsuccessful two-year run in the conference with the loss.
Solomon said the tournament is open, and he feels good about his team.
“If a lower seed wins, it wouldn’t surprise anybody,” he said.