By Shelly Davis
HELENA — The Orediggers proved the regular season was not a fluke.
Montana Tech’s volleyball team outlasted Rocky Mountain College in a 25-18,18-25, 26-28, 25-23, 15-11 thriller tonight at the Carroll College P.E. Center to win the Frontier Conference tournament. Stats
The victory came one week after Orediggers won their first regular-season Frontier title in 27 years.
Montana Tech receives the Frontier’s automatic bid in the NAIA National tournament. It will mark the Orediggers second straight appearance in the big dance.
The Montana Tech Orediggers came out swinging as they kicked off the Frontier Championship match against Rocky Mountain College, 25-18. Gena McMillan’s wicked serving and Masha Karol’s deathly swings set the pace as the Diggers kept the lead the entire bout.
Montana Tech spread the hitting around to keep Rocky on the defensive as Heather Thompson, Angela Molesworth, Haley Druyvestein and Karol made big plays. Hannah Liss and Tori Chelini drove the offense and tough defensive action by libero Sabrina Hopcroft rallied the Diggers to a big first set win.
The Battlin’ Bears jumped out to a 5-1 lead and never looked back. Rocky’s offense was led by Hailey Copinga and Tess Hellerud. Montana Tech’s lefty Nicole Peacock hammered some big kills along with Druyvestein and Molesworth to keep Tech within striking distance but could not take over the lead and Rocky takes the set 25-18 and ties the match 1-1.
The third set was a constant fight for domination as these two great volleyball teams fought hard to the end with Rocky taking the win 28-26. Druyvestein and McMillan put up strong performances as they pounded the ball at Rocky every chance they had while Rocky gave Hopcroft lots of activity in the backcourt. Peacock with assists from Hannah Liss put together some great plays but not enough to take the win.
The fourth set was a battle at the net as Montana Tech showed poise and strength blocking the big hits from Rocky. The Digger front line of Druyvestein, Peacock, Molesworth, McMillan, Thompson and Karol put up a wall that held Rocky back. Liss floated an ace serve then her teammates rallied at the block to pull ahead 24-21. The set had many lead changes but Tech’s Druyvestein hammered a quick middle set down for game point 25-23 and to tie the match 2-2.
The final set was a thrilling battle for the prize crown and the players fought hard to the end, neither team wanting to lose. A stuff block by Thompson & McMillan took the Diggers to double digits 10-9 before a timeout was called. The game was tied at 11 then Tech gained the edge 12-11. Gena McMillan served an ace to pull ahead 13-11 before Rocky called a timeout to let her think about the next serve. Rocky hit a ball out of bounds and Gena McMillan served for game point and senior middle-hitter Haley Druyvestein put up a stuff block to score the final point 15-11.
Coach Brian Solomon said, “All the years you put in the hard work and you don’t always end up in this position so it makes this so special for the team and I’m is so proud of our seniors. This is a time of firsts for myself and the team as this is the first tournament championship for Montana Tech since this playoff tournament started in 2005.”