By Bruce Sayler
Montana Tech fought fatigue with perseverance and an array of personnel combinations and pushed through for a volleyball win Friday night.
The Orediggers swept Bushnell, of Eugene, Oregon, 25-22, 25-12, 25-22 in a stop-and-go contest, marked by streak preventatives and errors capping the second day of the three-day Big Sky Volleyball Challenge. Montana Tech’s matches are part of the slate at the Orediggers’ HPER Complex. Some other matches are being played at the Maroon Activities Center. The Orediggers will finish play in the event with a Saturday 5 p.m. match at the HPER Complex versus Vanguard University of Costa Mesa, California. (Stats)
“Tired!?, Naw,” Montana Tech head coach Brian Solomon joked at the conclusion of Saturday’s list of matches, showing the Orediggers won twice on the day and are 2-1 for the Challenge and the season. “It’s 98 degrees and we’re running around inside … who’s tired?”
Both teams were when Montana Tech was putting the finishing touches on the sweep with come-from-behind rallies in the irst and third sets.
“We manipulated our personnel tonight to fix our strengths for the challenge Bushnell brought us,” Solomon said. “And, our defense was good.
“We got 10 blocks and we put on a lot of pressure from the service line. Our senior kids took care of us. And, we got 16 digs from Jelena (Jablanov).”
The gruel of the Volleyball Challenge has almost served as a training camp, especially it being the first action on the court for the Orediggers, and some other teams.
“It feels like conference,” Solomon said, referring to the high quality of opponents in the field for the event. “We’re playing three days in a row against good teams, and we have a really good team to play (Saturday).”
Bushnell built an early 10-4 lead in the first set behind the hitting of Leah Agost and Jessica Northcutt to go with sizzling serving by Callie Wilkins. Montana Tech chipped away at the deficit and tied the score at 15-all on an ace serve by Maureen Jessop.
The teams traded leads and were tied three more times until Olivia Muir smashed a 50-50 ball for a Montana Tech kill and 21-20 edge. A long serve by Makenna Northern of Bushnell put up set point, 24-212, for the Orediggers. Shay Coons crunched a kill for Bushnell, but the delay to end was only a second or two before the Beacons’ Bella Parque caught a serve in the net.
Bushnell seemed absent most of the second set. Jessop and Taylor Henley led a Montana Tech attack that shot ahead 8-4 and steadily built on the advantage. A kill by Henley stretched the distance to 18-12 and the Beacons didn’t score again in the set.
Senior standout setter Makenna Kaelber saw her most time of the season and she helped nail down the second-set win with two blocks and a kill to go with near-perfect sets for the hitters. Jessop served out and aced a serve after a Henley kill. Kaelber followed with a block and the Oredigger lead was 21-12. Payton Jones of Bushnell missed wide with a shot before Kaelber scored on a block and then on a kill to bring her team to set point. Jessop punctuated with a kill to bring on the third set.
“We used a lot of different personnel,” Solomon said. “McKenna made a really big impact coming in on the front row.”
Bushnell had an early edge in the third set and was competitive through it. The Beacons were up 9-6 after Brooke Silvernail fired an ace. Moments later, Hallie Neumann missed long on a bump for Bushnell and the point was the tying one at 9-all for Montana Tech.
The match was close the rest of the way with lead changes and ties.
A block by Jessop put the Orediggers ahead by 22-21 and they didn’t fall behind again. Jessop killed with a left-handed shot for a 23-21 edge. Bushnell scored on a kill by Agost and then Jessop boomed a kill for match point, 24-22. Henley finished with a block.
Jessop finished with 11 kills while Henley and Muir each had seven. Jessop also aced four serves. Rosalyn Zentz had 14 assists and Kaelber 11. Jablanov came up with 16 digs and Emma Carvo with 12. Henley led in blocks with six.
Agost led Bushnell with 10 kills, Northern notched 22 assists, Wilkins dealt a pair of aces and came up with 18 digs, and Jones led the Beacons in blocks with three.
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