By Bruce Sayler
Home was sweet for the Montana Tech volleyball team Thursday night as the Orediggers returned from a string of road games to accomplish a homecourt sweep.
It came in Frontier Conference play, too, as the Orediggers swept Montana State-Northern 25-18, 25-17, 25-19. (Stats)
“It’s great to get back on our own court,” Montana Tech head coach Brian Solomon said near midcourt in the Montana Tech HPER Complex after the match. “We learn some lessons as we go along and we did that against some ranked teams on the road. But, it’s good to be home.”
It hasn’t seemed the Orediggers have been home much, yet their Halloween Night showdown with rival Carroll will be their next and their last home tilt of the regular season. Montana Tech, however, will be playing host to the conference tournament next month.
“We’re trying to get everybody healthy,” Solomon said, noting that setter Kamaile Moody has been missing from the lineup about two weeks because of a concussion. “More players have been getting more experience. Hopefully, that experience will help us down the stretch.”
The contributors might have been more for the Orediggers on Thursday, and the results were good. Junior hitter Karina Mickelson had another standout match, and, Solomon said, the blockers performed well. The net defense seemed almost impenetrable at times against the MSU-Northern front-line attackers
Mickelson fronted a 35-kill attack with 14, and Hannah Liss set 21 assists. Heather Thompson notched six assists and Genesis Keith had four. Oredigger standout Masha Korol drew heavy defensive attention from the Skylights and mustered six kills and two blocks.
The Orediggers shook Northern in the first game at 8-7 on a Korol block. The Skylights lurked close, but gave ground. A Mickelson spike put the difference at 23-17 and then a pair of Skylight errors finished the set.
The Montana Tech hitters were varied and rained shots across the court, testing the MSU-Northern floor defense. Northern’s Shania Neubauer finished the night with 12 digs to tie Mickelson for match-high. Liberos Hannah Amtmann of Northern and Sabrina Hopcroft of Montana Tech each scooped 11. Amtmann is a Butte High alum.
The Orediggers led all the way in game two. A block by Keith made the score 1-0 and the team improved its lead steadily. It hit set point at 24-17 on a kill by Mickelson, then ended on a block by Keith.
The Skylights led early in the third game, getting to 3-0 behind the serving of Abigail Ellison. A Northern serving error a few minutes later, however, allowed the Orediggers to catch up at 5-all. Montana Tech took the lead for good, 10-9,on a Korol kill. The Orediggers pushed the margin apart a little more and reached match point on another Korol kill for 24-19. Kacee James stuffed the final Skylight shot to cap the match.
Liss finished with four ace serves and the Montana Tech defense was such that no Northern players hit double figures in kills.
“It was fun to have a home game,” Solomon said. “Things were happening.”
The win snapped a six-match losing streak for Montana Tech and squared the Orediggers’ record at 13-13. Their next match will be played next Thursday in Dillon against Montana Western.