By Bruce Sayler
It was Tech-Carroll. Enough said.
Well, enough said to describe the intensity undammed as a college sports rivalry completed another competitive entry Wednesday night, Montana Tech freshman Maureen Jessop ending a five-setter with a missile shot into back-right quarter of Carroll’s defensive alignment.
The Orediggers prevailed 25-17, 22-25, 23-25, 25-23, 15-13 in the Frontier Conference college women’s volleyball ripper played in the Montana Tech HPER Complex in front of a good spectator turnout. The win was the Orediggers’ eighth in its last nine matches. (Stats)
Jessop’s shot, set by McKenna Kaelber, ended the argument that had picked up steam through an Oredigger hitting error and a Talyr Krantz kill for Carroll. The short burst tied the tiebreaker set 13-all.
Then, the Saints’ Ali Williams was called for a double-hit, handing the one-point lead back to Montana Tech. It was also match point. Jessop angled in from the middle and smashed Kaelber’s set without a Saint able to get under it.
Such was enough of a rarity. Carroll floor defenders were digging up Montana Tech hot shots all night long. This time, though, they simply couldn’t get there.
“Yes, it was a heck of a match,” Brian Solomon, head coach of the Orediggers, said. “I was really happy to see us stay aggressive and keep taking our swings. Swinging on match point is not always an easy thing to do.”
Montana Tech roared into the tiebreaker set with big hits and led most of it. The Saints never led in the last set, but forced six ties.
The Orediggers found their power strokes just in time. They had dominated the first set, then were unable to often crack the Carroll defense the next two. A big start in the third set and some late-game digging from within themselves kept the Orediggers from letting Carroll leave the gym with the win.
“Sometimes, I think we do get lost in the middle games,” Solomon said. “I think it helped that we worked through a lot of things this week. Finishing a game is not always an easy thing to do. Tonight, it seemed like every step mattered.”
Former Butte HIgh/Montana Tech/Carroll star Maureen “Mo” (Tutty) Boyle fielded yet another tough congregation on the court as the head coach of the Saints and primed them for readiness to battle with the 16th-ranked Orediggers. Montana Tech, though, looked to establish dominance and sped out to a 6-0 lead in the first game as Karina Mickelson creamed three kills in the early run. The advantage piled to 17-7 on a four-point surge that featured two kills and a block by Gena McMillan to go with an ace serve by Kaelber. Set point came at 24-17 on a Jessop kill she fested over the Saints’ front line. Heather Thompson then killed in set-ender.
Boyle mixed some strategy between sets and Carroll turned the flow around in the second game. The Saints dueled the Orediggers through ties, and one- and two-point margins into a 21-all deadlock. Then, Lexi Mikkelsen fenced up a block for Carroll and Ayla Carpenter sizzled an ace serve. Krantz hit set point with a kill. McMillan answered for Montana Tech, but it only delayed the end of the set by a serve. McMillan’s tangled in the net and the match was tied at a game apiece.
“(The Saints) adjusted defensively and came up with a lot of balls,” Solomon said. “They extended a lot of rallies and they won those rallies.”
The third set was just about as close. The Oredigger’s last lead in the set was at 17-16 after recent Saint basketball standout Hannah Dean put too much oomph behind a spike attempt. She killed on the next try and the score was retied. Carroll got the lead for good at 21-20 on a Mikkelsen kill. One by Sophia Spoja tallied set point at 24-22. After a side-out, Krantz blocked on Jessop for Carroll’s 25th point and sent the match to a fourth game with the Saints holding a 2-1 advantage.
Montana Tech scored the first three points of the set, two on Mickelson kills, and Carroll was put in catch-up mode. A block by Thompson opened up an 11-3 difference. However, the Saints were not done. They scrapped back into the contest and tied the score at 21-all on a block by Dean. Point-for-point play let Montana Tech keep a one-point edge after going ahead on another block by Thompson. Then, the Saints caught up one more time. A Thompson hitting error created a 23-all knot. Her tip, though, over Dean then snared set point, 24-23. Dean hit a shot off the next serve too far for the court boundaries to contain and the match went to extra serves.
Mickelson led four Montana Tech hitters into double figures with 17 kills. Jessop had 16, and McMillan and Sydney Parks had 11 each. Kaelber registered 55 of the team’s 57 assists, libero Sabrina Hopcroft scurried for 34 digs and an outstanding effort at the net collected the team 15 blocks, led by Parks with seven, Thompson with six and Jessop with five. McMillan had 14 digs in her all-around effort.
Krantz hit 18 kills for Carroll to lead all hitters. Williams set 45 assists, and other leaders for the Saints included Madi Quick with three aces, Carpenter with 26 digs and Krantz with five blocks.
Montana Tech is now 16-3 for the season, 3-1 in conference matches, and will play Lewis-Clark State in Lewiston, Idaho, on Saturday in a Frontier match.
Carroll fell to 7-8 and 2-3.