Orediggers spike Skylights in home opener

Orediggers spike Skylights in home opener
Karina Mickelson of Montana Tech goes up for a block as Emily Feller of MSU-Northern hits the ball Friday night at the HPER Complex. (Bill Foley photo)

By Bill Foley

MSU-Northern gave Montana Tech’s volleyball team all it could handle for one set Friday night at the HPER Complex.

Then it was lights out for the Skylights.

After barely pulling out a 27-25 win in the opener, the mask-wearing Orediggers finished off the Skylights with wins of 25-14 and 25-13. (Stats)

“I think we got all the nerves and jitters of that first home game out of the way,” explained Tech senior Karina Mickelson, one of three Orediggers to reach double digits in kills in the win. “We played like we can.”

A little more than an hour earlier, a win looked very much in doubt as the Skylights took a 25-24 lead on a back-to-back kills by Alana Graves and Rylee Burmeister.

After an Oredigger timeout, Tech tied the game at 25 a thunderous kill from Mickelson. The Orediggers took the lead on a flip from setter McKenna Kaelber before Kaelber put the first set away with an assist to Sydney Parks.

The Skylights hung around in the second set before Tech broke a 10-all tie with a set-clinching 15-4 run. The Orediggers jumped out to leads of 8-2 and 10-3, and the third set was never in doubt.

Solomon said the tough first set had more to do with the Skylights than it did the Orediggers.

“That was a really good first set for both teams,” the coach said. “Northern played great in that first set, and both teams were playing well. You had to earn every point in that one.”

Mickelson said the Orediggers, who dropped their first two matches of the season at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, just felt comfortable playing on the Kelvin Sampson Court.

Tech had not played a meaningful point on that court since Nov. 9, 2019 because the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the Frontier Conference volleyball season from the fall until the winter and spring.

“It’s so nice,” Mickelson said of playing at home, where Tech has been practicing for the last month. “In our own gym, it’s easy to translate what we do every day in practice. It’s just comfortable.”

Mickelson and sophomore Maureen Jessop each finished the match with 11 kills. Sophomore Taylor Henley added 10 kills. Jessop added nine digs, and Mickelson dug six.

“We collectively passed and defended really well,” Tech coach Brian Solomon said. “We had some players really make some good improvements off this last week.”

Kaelber, also a sophomore, handed out 29 assists, and classmate Hannah Oggerino collected a team-best 18 digs. Parks spiked five kills, while freshman Megan Burton spiked three. The Orediggers also got kills from freshman Logan Reed, Junior Kiya Loobey and KIaelber.

Oggerino served a pair of aces, while Jessop, senior Makaile Moody and sophomore Emma Corvo each added one.

“I think the way we played tonight is really what the last month has looked like for us,” Solomon said. “It was nice to have the comfort of our own gym. It’s nice to play well.”

Mickelson said the Oredigger veterans and younger players are making for a very nice mix at Montana Tech.

“We’ve got a lot of younger players, but we all mesh really well,” she said. “Everyone likes each other. It’s good.”

Burmester’s 13 kills paced the Skylights with 13 kills. Graves added 13. Emily Feller ran the Northern offense with 19 assists, and Kaitlin Murdock registered 10 digs.

The win was the 13th straight for the Orediggers over the Skylights. That streak dates back to 2014. Both teams are 1-2, and neither side has much time to celebrate or dwell on Friday’s match.

The Orediggers and Lights play again at 1 p.m. Saturday at the HPER.

“It’s a great feeling right now,” Solomon said. “We’ve got about 20 minutes to feel good about it. There’s a lot to get ready for a 1 o’clock game tomorrow.”

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