Tech needs only three sets to pluck Eagles

By Bruce Sayler 

 Sweeps Week continued for Montana Tech volleyball at the Orediggers’ home station for an annual tournament. 

Montana Tech aced Northwest University of Kirkland, Washington, 25-20, 25-21, 25-18 Saturday afternoon as the Orediggers completed the Big Sky Volleyball Challenge in the Butte Civic Center with a 2-1 performance. (Stats)

They are now 6-1 for the season, with all seven matches being decided by three-game sweeps. The team has yet to venture into a fourth set. 

“It was a good day,” Montana Tech head coach Brian Solomon said, referring to the win over Northwest as well as a Saturday morning sweep of Dickinson State. “Some players showed some good improvement. We played well and overcame adversity, some of which was self-inflicted. 

“The players adjusted and showed they could weather the storm.” 

The win over Northwest seemed to be constant repellant as the Eagles trailed most of the way, but mounted repeated charges at the Orediggers. 

“We had to sustain some runs,” Solomon said. “We still scored well and we served well. We had nine aces. We put a lot of pressure on at the serving line.” 

The Orediggers stacked 38 kills over the three sets with Taylor Henley leading the way, nailing 10. Libero Sarah Hopcroft served four aces to go with the 21 digs she scooped while leading the floor defense. Maureen Jessop powered nine kills and Olivia Muir chalked up seven in added firepower. McKenna Kaelber dished out 31 assists. The good block at the net was led by 6-foot-3 senior Sydney Parks with five rejections, backed by Henley with four. 

Northwest leaders included Abi Broussard with 13 kills, all of them seemingly at high velocity. Anna Saelens set 24 assists. The Eagles also received 15 digs from Cristina Lorenz, and three blocks each from Saelens and Susana Bailey. 

Northwest matched Montana Tech through most of the first set with the Orediggers not firming the lead until a Parks block created a 21-20 edge. Jessop was serving and reined the Orediggers to the set win. Karina Mickelson mashed a kill, Muir stuffed on a block and the Eagles suffered a hitting error that brought set point, 24-20. Mickelson killed, off a Kaelber back-set, for the game win. 

Montana Tech broke away earlier in the second set, but then had to fight off Northwest late. The Orediggers led 15-10 after a Parks kill and then 17-11 following a Kaelber ace. 

A kill by Jessop opened the gap to 18-11 before the Eagles started working their way back. Kills by Megan Horne and Broussard capped a surge that narrowed the difference to 22-20. Muir smacked a kill and Henley combined with Kaelber on a block that brought set point to the Orediggers. 24-20. A net serve knocked a point off the spread. Henley’s kill finally put the Eagles and the the game win away. 

The third set was closer to the first. Montana Tech led from 11-10, on a Northwest service error, to reaching match point at 24-18 as Kaelber set a kill for Logan Reed. A serving run by Emma Carvo helped the Orediggers repel an Eagles surge that had closed the margin to a point. 

 Montana Tech finished the match with another block teamed on by Henley and Kaelber. 

“There were a lot of good teams here and the tournament gave us a chance to see some,” Solomon said. “We got to see some players and were able to move some pieces around to see what works for our team. Now this gives us a chance to reset for a batch of games we’ll have to play in the next couple of weeks.” 

The Orediggers’ next competition will be in a non-conference tournament September 3-4 at Bellevue, Nebraska.