By Bruce Sayler
The attraction started out as fright night for Rocky Mountain and finished on the brooms of a sweep for Montana Tech as the Orediggers sacked their treat on Halloween’s Eve, a three-set Frontier Conference college women’s volleyball victory.
Montana Tech turned its own HPER Complex into a haunted house for Rocky Mountain, howling out a 25-14, 25-13, 25-23 win over the Bears – the last set being a little spooky for the Orediggers. (Stats)
“I’m glad we got that third set,” Montana Tech head coach Brian Solomon said. “A lot of teams have been going five sets recently and it can get a little too interesting, then. It was good to win a close one at the end.”
Rocky Mountain showed few signs of making for “a close one” during the beginnings of the match. The Orediggers came out for the match hitting and hitting hard. Some shots almost left vapor trails.
“We were really clicking in a lot of ways,” said Solomon, whose Orediggers came into the match carrying a No. 17 NAIA national ranking. “We took a few big swings (and connected), but it’s a good way to get blocked, too. They blocked us pretty good in the third set and got our hairs up a little bit.”
Montana Tech scored the first six points of the match with McKenna Kaelber at the service line. Maureen “Mo” Jessop killed two for points, Karina Mickelson killed one, and a Kaelber ace tallied one with Rocky Mountain miscues accounting for the others. Another Mickelson kill minutes later opened a 10-point difference, 12-2.
Yet another Mickelson kill brought on set point at 24-14 before Olivia Muir ended the set for the Orediggers with a block.
Sarah Hopcroft served Montana Tech to a 5-0 command to launch the second set. Jessop scored four of the points on three hard kills and one tip. A Bear error was responsible for the other. Taylor Henley’s kill moments later opened a 14-5 spread, which grew to 10 points the next serve when Rocky Mountain was called for committing a double-hit. Set point arrived at 24-12 on a kill by Muir. A trade of side-outs followed before a block by Henley finished the second set.
The Orediggers amassed 29 kills over the first two sets.
“All three of our big hitters were in double figures (in kills) tonight,” Solomon said, referring to Jessop with 14, Mickelson with 13 and Muir with 10. “McKenna set a really good offensive game for us. She gave us some good, open balls.”
Pre-match festivities saw Montana Tech honor its four senior players – Emma Carvo, Mickelson, Sydney Parks and Hudsyn DiBrito – and their families.
The Orediggers blasting away at Rocky Mountain the first two sets did not, however, chase the Bears out of the gym. They came right back at Montana Tech in set three.
The Orediggers engineered a 10-4 advantage with Henley’s kill putting the capper on the surge. The Bears clawed back. Blythe Sealey served a three-point run that whittled Rocky Mountain’s deficit to 13-12 with 6-foot-3 Taylor Wolf pounding down the Bears’ 12th point.
A kill by Jessop returned serve to Montana Tech, before the Bears regained it on a tip by Bella Bryan. An Oredigger hit missed wide of the court, tying the score at 14-all. Rocky Mountain took its first lead of the entire match on a kill by Wolf. The teams traded ties and one-point leads until a Jessop kill was followed by an ace from Kaelber and a combined block by Mickelson and Parks. The flurry gave the Orediggers a 23-20 edge.
Wolf spiked a shot for the Bears, then Mickelson nailed down match point with a kill. After Morgan Allen scored on a block for Rocky Mountain, Muir punctuated the close of the match with a thumping kill.
“We had 56 digs and they had 38,” Solomon pointed out. “That was a really good defensive game for us and it reminds me of how strong our offense was.”
The Orediggers belted 46 kills as a team with Kaelber setting 42. She also fired two aces. Hopcroft led in digs with 20 and Henley paced the blocking with five deflections. Mickelson and Parks notched four blocks apiece.
Rocky Mountain’s kills leader was Weiying Wu with six. The Bears killed 24 shots with Sealey setting 18. Ayla Embry led the team in digs with 16. The Bears’ blocks leaders were Wu with four and Allen with three.
The sweep completed a day’s sweep for Montana Tech teams over Rocky Mountain opponents. The Orediggers defeated the Bears 21-17 in football Saturday afternoon at Bob Green Field, across the street from the HPER Complex.
Montana Tech raised its records to 19-8 overall and 5-3 in conference. The Bears fell to 10-17 and 2-6. The Orediggers are slated to be home again for their next match, Wednesday against Montana Western. The Frontier Conference contest is set for a 7 p.m. first serve.