Orediggers welcome newest Hall of Famers

Orediggers welcome newest Hall of Famers

The Montana Tech and Digger Athletic Association Hall of Fame and Awards Weekend is slated for the upcoming weekend.

Joining the Digger Athletics Hall of Fame are Davis Almanza, Collette Anderson Phillips, Jeff Bellach, Gary Carlson, Rod and Mary Lee James and the 1981 Volleyball Team. Last year’s Ed Simonich and Peggy Sarsfield Award recipients will also be honored. Zach Bunney received the Ed Simonich Award. Hattie Thatcher and Bailie Cortner were named Peggy Sarsfield Award winners.

The event filled weekend starts on Friday with an induction ceremony at the Butte Country Club. The reception starts at 6 p.m. and inductions and awards begin at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

The Oredigger football team hosts Eastern Oregon at 1 p.m. on Saturday. The Hall of Fame Class of 2017 will be honored at halftime. On Saturday night, the Tech volleyball team hosts Rocky Mountain College at 7 p.m. A pregame reception at 6 p.m. will take place in the Hall of Fame Lounge in the HPER Complex. The reception is also open to the public.

Hall of Fame Weekend is September 22-23. The weekend of activities includes the second annual Digger Scholarship Scramble on Friday and induction reception on Friday night at the Butte Country Club. The Class of 2017 will also be honored at halftime of the football game on Saturday when the Orediggers host Eastern Oregon.

Davis Almanza played football for the Orediggers from 1993-97. Almanza is one of the most prominent wide receivers in Tech history and the first wide receiver to enter the Hall of Fame. The Great Falls native played for two Frontier Conference Championship teams in 1996 and 1997. The 1996 team is the only Tech team to reach the NAIA National Championship finishing as the runner-up that year.

Almanza holds the records for Most Career Receiving Yards (2,431), Most Career Receptions (168), Most Career Touchdown Receptions (20) and is tied for Most Touchdowns in a Game (3). Almanza racked up 1,943 yards receiving as a junior and senior and has the second Most Receiving Yards in a Season with 1,047. Almanza was selected First Team All-Conference in 1996 and 1997.

Now living in Billings, Almanza graduated from Tech in 1998 with a B.S. in Applied Mathematics and a minor in Computer Science. Almanza is currently a manager at a software development company.

Collette (Phillips) Anderson is the first volleyball player inducted into the Digger Athletics Hall of Fame. Originally from Missoula, Phillips was an outside hitter for the Orediggers and two-time All-Conference selection from 2001-04. In 2004, Phillips led the Diggers to the NAIA Northwest Regional Qualifier. She was named the Frontier Conference Player of the Year, Pacific Northwest All-Region selection and was an NAIA All-America Honorable Mention.

Phillips was named Frontier Player of the Week three times while leading the conference in kills and points. Phillips holds the records for Most Kills in a Season (549), Most Kills in a Single Match (29) and Most Double-Digit Kill Matches in a Season (30).

Phillips graduated from Tech in 2006 with a B.S. in General Engineering and a minors in Math and Professional Technical Communications. Phillips resides in Helena and works for Great West Engineering.

Jeff Belllach, playing from 1995-99, helped lead the Montana Tech basketball team to back-to-back Frontier Conference Championships in 1998 and 1999. The team reached the NAIA National Tournament both years, the only two appearances by a Tech men’s basketball team.

The Kent, Washington native is the most prolific three-point shooter in school history with 375 treys during his career. He is second on the Most Three-Point Field Goals in a Season with 115. At the end of his career, he was second on the All-Time Scoring list with 1,778 points and is still third today. Bellach was an honorable mention All-Conference selection in 1997-98. In his senior year, he was selected first team All-Conference and was a first team All-Pacific Northwest Regional honoree.

Bellach graduated from Montana Tech with a B.S. in Occupational Safety and Health in 1999. He later obtained a degree in Health and Human Development from Montana State and currently coaches boys basketball and golf at Manhattan Christian School.

Gary Carlson enters the Hall of Fame as a Legacy selection. The two-sport athlete was a four year starter in basketball and played baseball from 1964-68, a time when Tech did not offer athletic scholarships. Carlson received an honorable mention All-Conference award in basketball and was the team MVP.

After graduating with a B.S. and M.S. degrees in Petroleum Engineering, Carlson had a prestigious career in the Petroleum industry. Carlson served as the President of the Montana Tech Alumni Association and was on the Foundation Board.

Rod and Mary Lee James have been an integral part of Montana Tech and Digger Athletics for more than three decades. They are at every home game for all sports as well as a many away games. Rod was an Environmental and General Engineering professor at Montana Tech for 37 years. In that time, Rod served as a professor, Head of the Environmental Engineering Department and Faculty Athletic Representative for Montana Tech student-athletes for over 25 years. Rod received the outstanding professor award twice during his tenure.

The most important fact about Rod and Mary Lee is the role they served students and student-athletes. Rod and Mary Lee have made Montana Tech the home away from home for numerous Orediggers. They invited students into their lives for holidays and weekly dinners for the past 30 years. When a student couldn’t afford to go home or home was too far away, they always had a spot with Rod and Mary Lee. Their support of Montana Tech and Digger Athletics is unforgettable.

The 1981 volleyball team won the first Frontier Conference title by a women’s team at Montana Tech. Coached by Tech Hall of Famer Jo Buysse, the 1981 team finished with a 20-7 overall record and reached the AIAW Region IX Tournament. Coach Buysse also successfully coached the basketball team at the time. They competed against many future Division I and II opponents such as University of Idaho, Gonzaga, University of Portland, Central and Eastern Washington. Four of the 13 players were All-Conference and Coach Buysse was the Frontier Coach of the Year.

The success of the 1981 volleyball team was even more impressive as there was no high school volleyball in the state of Montana at that time. Six members of the team were basketball players taught to play volleyball when they arrived on campus. Additionally, they had double practices when the seasons overlapped.

The roster of the 1981 team includes: Head Coach Jo Buysse, Coach Linda Schoenstedt, Captains Mavis (Mollberg) Bentley and Krystal Becker, Mary Yakawich, Jamie Connell, Mary (Theis) West, Cathy (Gallagher) Brannon, Carla (Slick) Danielson, Julie Hoklin, Krisiti (Hoklin) Syvrud, Shelly (Linz) Davis, Ciny (Seymour) Kmetz, Robin Rohl, and Gloria (Dubiel) Jensen.

For more information about the Montana Tech and Digger Athletics Hall of Fame and Awards Weekend, call 496-4105 or check out GoDiggers.com.

— Montana Tech

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