By Bruce Sayler
Brian Solomon probably had the best seat in the house and he was impressed with what he saw.
“It was a great showing,” the Montana Tech head volleyball coach agreed after the Orediggers dismantled College of Idaho 25-21, 25-18, 25-15 to sweep their first-round match in the NAIA national playoffs. “Our pins really played well with (Olivia) Muir, ‘Mo’ (Maureen Jessop) and Kinnidi (Willmore). It gave us a lot of balance tonight.
“And, I really liked our serving and blocking.’
The win sends the 11th-ranked Orediggers, 23-5 this season, on to the NAIA National Tournament November 29-December 3 in Sioux City, Iowa. College of Idaho finished a 19-14 season with the loss Saturday in the Montana Tech HPER Complex.
“The two Olivias (Muir and LeBeau) were great at the block,” Solomon continued, “and Mo had a great game at the net.”
Muir is the reigning Frontier Conference “Player of the Year” and Jessop won the award last year.
“We stayed aggressive,” Solomon said about keeping College of Idaho from gathering any momentum or producing any strong serving runs, “on offense and at the serving line. It is great to be playing well and the end of the year.”
Jessop led the attack with 12 kills, and Muir pounded 11 kills and posted five blocks. Willmore had eight kills for the Orediggers. The strong block also featured four made by Taylor Henley and two by LeBeau.
College of Idaho battled well early in the first set behind the play by Jade Warren and Jerzie Pluid. However, Montana Tech pulled away after shaking the Coyotes and found its tempo on the way to the 25-21 first-set win.
Montana Tech was in full rhythm for the second set and never trailed. Rhys Layton served the team to a 4-0 head start and Muir followed her to the line. Willmore whacked a kill and Jessop scored on a tip and the Orediggers had a 7-1 command. Montana Tech maintained the margin, then reached set point at 24-16 on a Willmore kill. College of Idaho weathered three set point situations before Jessop belted a kill to finish the set.
The third set was similar. Muir mashed a kill to break a 1-1 tie and the Orediggers were quickly out ahead. After a kill by LeBeau put the gap at 12-7, Mayson Moore toed the service line for Montana Tech. Muir and Henley teamed on a block and the Orediggers went on a 6-0 run for an 18-7 command. McKenna Kaelber and Henley both scored in the run, the ‘Yotes committed two hitting errors, and Moore blasted an ace.
The difference was 10 points, 20-10, after another College of Idaho miscue. The Coyotes tried to inch back into the set, but ended up missing on kill shots twice at the end at match point and final point.
Shelbey Nichol and Janae Rayborn put down six kills each to lead the ‘Yotes. Warren had five. Warren and Pluid put up three blocks each. Analise Hitchcock led in assists with 15. Clair Hodge paced the floor defense with 15 digs. None of the team’s servers landed an ace.
Layton and Willmore each sizzled two aces for Montana Tech. Moore had one. Layton led in assists with 21, and Kaelber notched 12. Jelena Jablanov registered five assists. Sarah Hopcroft led in digs with 12. Jablanov and Emmy Green had eight apiece.