By Bruce Sayler
Montana Tech aced the course, blocked out attempts to distract and simply killed it this weekend by going undefeated in the Advantage Butte Big Sky Volleyball Challenge tournament.
The Orediggers capped their stay in the meet with a 25-13, 26-24, 25-17 sweep of Valley City State. The 14-team, three-day tourney was held in the Butte Civic Center. (Stats)
“It was a good finish to a big home tournament for us,” Montana Tech head coach Brian Solomon said. “This is a very new team — we started four freshmen on the floor — and we grew through some tough moments in matches.
“We had to handle some tough serving today and our passing was good through the tournament.”
The four wins in the Big Sky Challenge raised the Orediggers’ season record to 7-1 and lengthened their winning streak to five matches.
They fell behind early in first set against Valley City State, but lurked closely and nabbed the lead at 8-7 on a combined block threw up McKenna Kaelber and Sydney Parks. Montana Tech built on the advantage and got to set point at 24-13 on an ace serve by Portia Cortner. Kaelber then swung on a Viking shot and pounded it for a kill to end the set.
The second game was much harder to win. Solomon inserted many of the younger backup players to gain experience and develop their skills. So, the North Dakota team led for much of the set and held a 24-22 set-point lead after Madison Brown mashed a kill and an Oredigger was called for one of 14 double-hit infractions whistled in the match.
Paige Benson’s ensuing serve sailed over the end line, giving a point to Montana Tech and then the Orediggers pulled even at 24-all on an ace by Gena McMullen.
Next, Maureen Jessop belted a kill for Montana Tech set point and Kiya Loobey finished the game with a kill that was set by Oredigger libero Sabrina Hopcroft.
Montana Tech led all the way in the third game, roaring out to a 3-0 lead as Taylor Henley sandwiched two kills around one by Jessop. The Orediggers maintained the bit of distance and built on it times on the way to 24-17 set point, achieved on a Karina Mickelson kill.
The end — predictably — then came on the 14th double-hit call, this one against Valley City State.
The attack was spread around for the Orediggers as Jessop led in kills with eight, and Mickelson and Henley nailed six apiece. Hannah Oggerino sizzled two aces, Hopcroft had 13 digs and Parks posted seven blocks. Emma Carvo came up with 11 digs and Kaelber had five blocks.
Valley City State leaders included Egan Ingstad with two aces, Charlotte Huschka with 15 digs and Caitlyn Fishbach with two stuff blocks.
The Montana Tech block didn’t allow any more than four kills by any of the Vikings.
“I like the way we defended and blocked the entire weekend,” Solomon said. “We put pressure on the opposing teams.”
Now that the team is into the competitive flow, the routine will change a bit for the Montana Tech players.
“School starts Monday,” Solomon said. “So, there will be even more on our plate.”
The new stresses, daily schedule, routine and focus will be in the mix for the Orediggers as they plan for their next competition — the Gosarpy.com Labor Day Classic tournament Thursday through Saturday in Bellevue, Nebraska. Montana Tech will play Doane at 4 p.m. on Thursday to start the tourney, Matches against Central Methodist and McPherson on Friday, and College of The Ozarks on Saturday will complete the Orediggers’ stay.
They won’t be home again until a Frontier Conference match with Montana State-Northern on September 21 in the Montana Tech HPER Complex.