Orediggers battle back to top Saints in five

By Bruce Sayler 

 The left line proved to be the fast lane for a Montana Tech comeback and so the Orediggers lived life there. 

They were there long enough, anyway, to pull out a five-set Frontier Conference college women’s volleyball win Wednesday night in the Montana Tech HPER Complex.  

Montana Tech had some trouble with Carroll defenses in the earlier sets and dropped a pair of 25-23 outcomes to the Saints. The Orediggers recovered in time to sweep the rest of the sets 25-19, 25-14, 15-5.  (Stats)

“It was a good comeback,” understated Brian Solomon, head coach of the NAIA No. 17-ranked Montana Tech team. “Our hitters did a good job.” 

An adjustment loomed as key, too, and opened some court in a tight Carroll defense that floated to the vacant spaces seemingly easy to deny floor to the booming Oredigger shots. Montana Tech spikers began hitting across the court more instead of blasting away with the more common downcourt shots.  

As expected, had been well-prepared by head coach Maureen “Mo” (Tutty) Boyle, a former Butte High, Montana Tech and Carroll volleyball standout. 

Hitters Mo Jessop and Olivia Muir, in particular, benefited from the change for the Orediggers forced by the Saints’ alignment. 

“We started attacking across the court and it opened up the left line, I thought,” Solomon said. “Our serving was more successful, too, in the last few sets. 

“I think Mo had one of her best matches ever for us, and with 22 kills. It was the same with Olivia, the hitting down the left side.” 

Muir had 18 kills. Karina Mickelson knocked in 11 kills for the Orediggers and Taylor Henley also had a good night at the net, especially in early-set play, with nine kills. 

Montana Tech appeared to have a good Carroll squad worn out or out of sync by the time the fifth set arrived with the match score tied at two wins a team. The Orediggers grabbed a 3-0 lead to start the set as Henley killed for the first point and Jessop fired an ace after a Carroll shot wrapped around the outside of a net antenna. 

Emma Carvo of Montana Tech toed the service line with a 6-3 lead after a Muir kill. She served the next six Oredigger points to widen the difference to 12-3 in the short tie-breaker game. Muir mashed two kills in the run and Sydney Parks pounded one. 

The teams traded sideouts and a Carroll attempt landed out of bounds, causing match point. Jessop zeroed in on a 50-50 ball hovering above the net and might have flattened it with a drive into the hardwood. The match was over. 

It culminated a long comeback. 

Carroll outbattled Montana Tech in the first two sets. 

The first one saw the Saints roar out ahead 6-1 behind a rash of Oredigger mistakes. A kill by Lexie Gleasman was the only Carroll-made point in the run. Montana Tech was stubborn and scrapped back. The Orediggers caught Carroll at 10-all on a kill by Henley and the set remained close the rest of the way. Lexi Mikkelsen ended a long rally with a kill for the Saints that brought set point and broke a 23-all tie. Taelyr Krantz crunched a kill and Carroll had won the first set. 

Montana Tech took the early lead in the second game and owned a 16-9 advantage after a kill by Karina Mickelson. Carroll surged back behind a serving run by Katherine McEuen. Highlighted by a Madde Boles block, McEuen ace and a block Krantz, Carroll pulled to within 16-15. The Orediggers committed two hitting errors in the run. 

The Saints pulled even at 21-all on a Krantz kill. The set, like the first one, was tied at 23-all. Then Krantz untied it with a kill for set point, and Gleasman finished the game with a kill. At 2-0 in the match, Carroll looked poised to earn an upset. 

“In the first couple of sets, we had a lot of hitting errors,” Solomon said. “We had a lot of unforced errors and just bad plays. Neither team is going to play perfect. And, we just came up short the first couple of sets.  

“This time of the year, no team should be losing its focus.” 

Montana Tech refocused after the second set. Two kills by Muir and one by Mickelson staked the Orediggers to a 6-3 lead in the third set. Montana Tech held a slight edge most of the rest of the way, then rode a Muir serving run to a 23-15 command. Jessop nailed three kills in the four-point surge, and Kaelber started it with a block. Set point arrived at 24-17 when a Carroll shot caught in the net. Three serves later, Jessop got a set win on the Montana Tech side of the scoreboard with a kill. 

The Orediggers seemed to catch fire in the fourth set with a serving run by Logan Reed. She took the serve with the Saints clinging to a 6-5 edge. Reed aced her first serve and then two kills by Muir and one by Parks sent Montana Tech ahead. The Orediggers built on its lead and expanded it to 20-13 as Henley killed a floater. Jessop’s third straight ace opened a 10-point, 24-14, margin and put the game in set point. Mickelson’s kill forced the tiebreaker set. 

“Taelyr Krantz and Lexie Gleasman had good games for them,” Solomon credited. “I’m glad the match swung our way.” 

Jessop served five aces to go with her 22 kills. Libero Sarah Hopcroft sparked the defense with 34 digs. Hannah Oggerino had 12 digs. Kaelber set 57 of the Orediggers’ 58 assists. Kaelber also led in blocks with three. 

Krantz paced the Carroll attack with 14 kills and Gleasman pounded 10. Hannah Schweikert had 21 assists, libero Julia Carr led the team in digs with 18, and the blocks leader was Krantz with seven. 

The loss put the Saints’ records at 11-12 for the season and 4-3 in conference. Montana Tech improved to 18-8 and 4-3 while snapping a losing streak at three matches. The Orediggers are to be home Saturday for a 6 p.m. league match against Rocky Mountain in the HPER Complex.