There will be no easing into the season for the Montana Tech volleyball team.
The Orediggers will be tested early and often in the opening weeks of the 2015 campaign, starting with the Biola Summer Slam in La Mirada, California. That tournament begins Thursday as fourth-year head coach Brian Solomon hits the road with a mixture of experience and fresh faces.
The first day of the tournament will be an extremely difficult challenge for the un-ranked Orediggers. Day 2 will be no cakewalk, either.
The Orediggers open Thursday at 3 p.m. against No. 13 Davenport University. Tech also play No. 8 Vanguard University at 9 p.m.
On Friday, Tech plays Menlo College at 5 p.m. and The Master’s College at 9. The Master’s received votes in the Top 25 poll, which was released Tuesday.
The tough start is fine with Solomon, whose team will play 17 matches in the first four weeks of the season. That leads into Tech’s Frontier Conference opener at Rocky Mountain College on Sept. 17.
“The first few weeks we try to figure out the lineup, some rotation stuff, getting everyone on the same page,” the Tech coach said. “We’re teaching a lot of new players our system. It’s early and we’re really young, so we’ve got to be patient.”
The Orediggers were hit hard by graduation, particularly with the loss of Anaconda star Korey Krumm, an honorable mention All-American. Tech also lost Kimmy Kavran, a three-year libero who set the school record for digs as a freshman.
Kavran elected to not go out for the team for her senior season.
The competition for that libero spot, which includes Butte Central graduate Danika Neumann, is still open.
“We have several people competing for that right now,” Solomon said. “Angie (Pancost) played there in the spring and did a nice job. We’re going to kind of test things out as we’re going.”
The key players the Orediggers return have been impressive.
Senior Sydney Norris (5-foot-9) and junior Jordan Danz (6-0) will start at outside hitter, while juniors Baili Cortner (6-2) and Haley Druyvestein (6-1) will play in the middle.
Junior Makenzie Bauck is back to start at setter, and Tech will return 5-10 senior Katie Tabaracci after a solid junior campaign. Also, 6-1 sophomore Mariah Cooney, a Butte Central graduate, after she missed the 2014 season with a shoulder injury.
The Orediggers busy schedule continues next week when Tech hosts the Big Sky Volleyball Challenge.