Orediggers take down Pacific Union in four games

The four-game victory might have been better for Montana Tech than even a three-game sweep would have Thursday during the very first match of The Big Sky Volleyball Challenge.
The 25-20, 25-18, 23-25, 25-19 win over Pacific Union in the Montana Tech HPER Complex was also the first home match this young season for the Orediggers and ran their record to 5-1.
The Oredigger effort was a positive for the team-building going on this season, said head coach Brian Solomon and returning players Angie Pancoast and Sydney Norris. What they were most happy about was how the team came back from a kind of third-game lull and loss to power through the Pioneers in the match clincher.
“In the third game, we kind of went into a little slump,” Pancoast related, “but we worked hard at the end to close the gap.”
“Sometimes, it’s good to have a bad game so you can learn from it,” Norris said. “Sometimes.”
The test was mental and Montana Tech passed, Solomon said. It was the first competition in front of a home crowd, and it was a pretty good one, for the freshmen and so some nerves might have had to be calmed. Winning the first two games helped solve that problem.
“The first couple of weeks, we’ve been mentally tough,” he said. “We’ve handled adversity a lot better.”
Trust seemed to be key in the win over Pacific Union, a Seventh-Day Adventist school from Angwin, Calif. Solomon said the chemistry is better this year. Norris and Pancoast indicated likewise.
“We’re really close and we always have each other’s back,” Norris said.
Common goals can be attributed, Pancoast added.
“We have such a ‘want’ on the court,” Pancoast, switched to the libero spot this year, said. “It’s not a ‘want’ for the ball, but a ‘want’ for each other to do well on the team.”
Solomon said that many players saw time on the court was a plus.
“It was good to get a lot of players in,” he said. “It’s good to get experience any time you can.”
The players and the coach said the Pioneers’ block was a sturdy one to try to blast through or by, and that their serve was good.
Junior middle blocker Bailie Cortner led Montana Tech with 12 kills and setter Mackenzie Bauck put up all 40 of the team’s assists. Pancoast led in digs with 20 and Jordan Danz came up with 10 digs. Freshman Hannah Liss blistered three ace serves. Haley Druyvestein was the blocks leader with three, including one solo.
Pacific Union leaders included Courtney Clark with 11 kills, Madison Brown with 19 assists, Athena Abary with two aces, Chace Rodgers with 15 digs and Kourtney Davidson with five blocks.
Montana Tech has two matches scheduled on Friday in the HPER Complex. The Orediggers are to play Dickinson State of North Dakota at 9 a.m., and Hope International at 7 p.m.
Pacific Union led much of the early part of the first game, going to a three-point margin twice — the last being 10-7 after a tip shot by Davidson. Montana Tech caught up with Danika Neumann serving and Pacific Union’s Clark tangling a shot in the net. Neumann served six straight points and Danz gave the Orediggers their first lead, 11-10, with a kill. Montana Tech went ahead to stay on a tip by freshman Wiley that made the score 15-13. The Orediggers found game point at 24-18 as Bauck aced a serve. Druyvestein ended the game three serves later with a kill.
The second game was close, though Montana Tech led the most of the way. The wider gaps came late as back-to-back aces by Liss stretched the margin to 24-17 and game point. The aces were part of a four-point run by Liss. Butte Central alum Mariah Cooney finished the set, after a sideout, with a kill.
Pacific Union nearly succumbed to a Montana Tech rally in game three. The visitors led from 9-8 after a Davidson kill the rest of the set. A big kill by Druyvestein off a Bauck set sparked a late rally by the Orediggers and made the score 23-19. Cooney nailed a kill after the side-out and Danz followed with a one-handed block she tapped into an open spot. Wiley blasted a 50-50 ball off of Pacific Union serve-receive and Montana Tech was within a point, 23-22. Clark hit a kill after a timeout to put up game point. A trade of serves later, Lauren Purdom used a soft touch to tally the game-winner.
The Orediggers rebounded to control the fourth game and chalk up the match win. Montana Tech never trailed, but was tied twice, the last at 5-5 after Pacific Union’s Brown smoked an ace. Bauck then faked the set and tipped for an edge the Orediggers kept and increased. Freshman Karina Mickelson copped game point for Montana Tech with a strong cross-court kill. It made the score 24-18. Clark answered, but the Orediggers then put Pacific Union away with a block by Danz.

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