By Bruce Sayler
Montana Tech highlighted its strengths Saturday morning and flexed ample volleyball muscle in a decisive sweep of Dickinson State.
The 25-21, 25-14, 25-22 win saw the Orediggers perform through three different personalities rotated through the sets. (Stats)
They broke away from a tight game with the Blue Hawks in the first set, dominated them in the second and then rallied past them to secure the sweep in the third.
Dickinson State’s answers were insufficient.
“It’s morning, so we started off a little slow,” reminded Oredigger 6-foot-1 senior outside hitter Karina Mickelson. “It took us a little bit of time, but we figured it out.
“They were difficult. But, both teams were playing really well and that makes for more of a challenge.”
The match was part of a busy day at the Butte Civic Center where the Big Sky Volleyball Challenge college tournament was being played into the evening. The Orediggers’ match was one of three taking place at the same time on the arena’s sports courts. Montana Tech was also on schedule to play Northwestern University of Kirkland, Washington, at 3 in the afternoon.
The win was the Orediggers’ fifth in six matches this season and also their sixth sweep. They were bouncing back from a Thursday night sweep at the hands of No. 17 Bellevue (Nebraska) in the tourney opener.
“Bellevue is a really good team,” Mickelson said, with a stern nod of her head. “But we figured it out today and got a win.”
Matching serving runs on offense with defensive touches at the net wrote the winning formula versus Dickinson State, the senior standout said.
‘We had a good number of serving runs and people serving great,” she said. “Then, we got a ton of blocks, too. Height at the net is one of our strengths, which helps our defense out. We can be intimidating.”
The Blue Hawks might not argue.
Mickelson contributed eight kills and two blocks to the stat sheet. Montana Tech charted 39 kills, led by newcomer Olivia Muir with 11. Maureen Jessop matched Mickelson with eight.
Setter McKenna Kaelber notched 35 assists, Jessop and Emma Carvo served two aces each, and the floor defense spread the digs around quite evenly. Libero Sarah Hopcroft led with nine. The “ton of blocks” saw 6-1 Taylor Henley, 6-3 Sydney Parks and the 5-11 Kaelber fence out six shots each.
Dickinson State leaders were Mackenna Johnson with 12 kills and four blocks, Bailey Pearcy with 17 assists and three aces and libero Jenna Swope with 13 digs.
The Orediggers and Blue Hawks battled evenly in the first game until Montana Tech secured the lead for good at 18-17 on the first to two consecutive unreturnable serves by Kaelber.
The Orediggers forged a little distance from DSU to set point at 24-20, pinned on a Blue Hawk hitting error. Johnson scored on a kill for Dickinson State, but her next shot sailed long and Montana Tech had won the first set.
Carvo’s serving run ignited the Orediggers in the second game, taking them from an 11-10 edge to a 16-10 command, firing two aces on the way. Mickelson and Jessop each tallied tips and the Blue Hawks were guilty of an error on a tip try to account for the five-point run.
Hopcroft took over the serve at 19-13 and she took her team to set point on two kills by Henley, one by Muir and another Blue Hawk error. After a serve tangled in the net, Mickelson blasted home the game-winner and Montana Tech headed for the third set with a 2-0 advantage.
Dickinson State made the Orediggers reach within and fight for the sweep, however. The Blue Hawks built five-point leads twice in the third set, the last at 12-7 on an ace by McKenzie Moser. They wouldn’t allow Montana Tech to gain the lead, for good, until the very end. A block by Cassidy Larson and an ace by Johnson positioned DSU ahead at 22-20. The Orediggers fought back on a kill by Muir and then a long hit by the Blue Hawks tied the score.
Hannah Oggerino belted an ace serve for Montana Tech match point, 24-22. Henley finished the match with a slap on the ball that floated it back over the net to land in an open floor spot in the Blue Hawks’ defense.