Respected Orediggers hit the volleyball court

This year there was no need for introductions as the Montana Tech volleyball team took the court for its first practice.

As the 2014 draws near, the Orediggers return their entire team from last year’s 17-13 campaign. That includes three seniors.

“We have three seniors, and you can feel the difference in having three seniors and that many returning,” Tech coach Brian Solomon said after practice Tuesday morning. “You can feel the difference in the gym. There’s a lot more focus.”

The list of seniors includes fifth-year players Korey Krumm and Samantha Hutcheson. Senior Annie Smoot is also back as a leader for the Orediggers, who enter the season with some respect on their side.

The respect word hasn’t been thrown around during preseason drills at Montana Tech in several years.

Last week, though, Tech was picked to tie for fourth place by coaches of the Frontier Conference in the preseason poll. Rocky Mountain College is picked No. 1, followed by Lewis-Clark State and Carroll College. Tech was tied with MSU-Northern.

The Orediggers and Skylights are the only teams besides Rocky to receive a first-place vote.

“We scrimmaged a lot of the Frontier in the spring, and we had a pretty good spring,” Solomon said after practice this morning. “I think that was a lot of the preseason poll. We played Rocky, Carroll and Great Falls. We saw Northern a couple of times during the spring.

“I think it was a pretty good poll,” Solomon said. “It was pretty accurate and a fair guess. The whole top of the conference will be pretty competitive.”

Tech opened drills with two practices on Monday. The team will practice again tonight before practicing once on Wednesday and Thursday.

Solomon said his team, which also returns third-year libero Kimmy Kavran, opened camp on the right foot. He said that is because the team returns so much experience.

“We started turning the corner at some positions last spring, and we’re picking up on some of those areas right off the bat,” Solomon said. “It’s nice to be able to pick up without having to start from scratch. Last year we had eight freshman so we really started at the basic level.

“Everyone knows where they should be and what they’re trying to accomplish at different positions,” Solomon said. “It’s a lot more fine tuning and getting a lot of reps than it is recreating how they hit and how they pass.”

Other roster players for the Orediggers are juniors Alison Lundy, Sydney Norris and Katie Tabaracci; sophomores Makenzie Bauck, Angie Pancost, Baillie Cortner, Halye Druyvestein and Jordan Danz; and redshirt freshmen Karli King and Danika Neumann; and freshmen Kelly Harbach and Jessica Buckley.

Mariah Cooney, a redshirt freshman from Butte, won’t play this year because of a shoulder injury. She will, however, stay with team.

“It looks good,” Solomon said of his first three practices. “We’ve got a lot of good depth coming in with a lot of our returners.”

The Orediggers open the season Aug. 21 at the Biola Summer Slam Tournament in La Mirada, Calif. Tec will play a tournament in Irvine, California the following week.

Tech’s schedule also includes some top competition in the inaugural Big Sky Volleyball Challenge the school will host with Carroll College Sept. 5-6.

“We’re moving up to really challenge ourselves those first few weeks,” Solomon said. “It will help prepare us for the conference.”

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