This fall Montana Tech has provided football fans in Butte with plenty to shout about. The Orediggers are off to a 6-1 start and look to close out their final three opponents to capture the Frontier Conference title. It has been a golden year for the Diggers and their fans. Another golden time for Montana Tech athletics was the early 1980s. The center of attention was Montana Tech’s women’s athletic department. During a three-year span, the Lady Orediggers ruled the league winning five conference championships. It started in the fall of 1981 when the Tech women captured the Frontier Conference women’s volleyball title. The club was led by Coach Jo Buysse. She took a program to the top despite the fact the state of Montana had no high school volleyball program. The activity would not become a sanctioned high school sport until 1990. Buysse won with some out-of-state athletes and a few in-state kids who were playing competitive varsity volleyball for the first time. In the winter of 1982, Buysse led the Lady Diggers to their first ever Frontier Conference women’s basketball championship. The Orediggers had a 3-17 record the year before, but all that changed in the winter of 1982. It was the first basketball title won by the school on the hill since 1947 when the Montana School of Mines’ men’s team took the league title. The next fall, in 1982, Linda Schoenstedt took over the head coaching position of the Tech volleyball program. The Lady Diggers did not miss a beat. They replaced six out-of-state players who graduated with mainly in-state kids. Montana Tech won the league title and played well in the District 12 playoffs. They won one match in the playoff and made it to the BiDistrict finals before falling to the number-two rated team in the country, Kearney State of Nebraska. The 1982 volleyball squad featured the Hoklin Sisters from Laurel, Kristi and Julie, who were the only returning starters from the previous year. Filling in nicely were Mary Theis, Michelle Smith, ,Shelly Linz, Mary Yakawich, and a host of others. Jo Buysse was back on the bench for the basketball season. Once again the Orediggers dominated winning their second straight league championship. The Orediggers went through league play with a glittering 14-1 mark. They also knocked off division one schools Montana State and Gonzaga. The Orediggers lost a narrow four-point decision to Mary College in the District 12 finals played here in Butte. The loss kept the Diggers from advancing to the national tournament.
The 1983 Orediggers’ basketball team featured great players like the Hoklin sisters who were just as dominate in basketball as they were in volleyball. There was also Connie Froke from Deer Lodge who was a high-point person on the club. There were a pair of Butte Central athletes who played big roles with the teams, Marian Paull and Mary Yakawich. There was added punch for the club supplied by Robin Roehl and Colleen Purdy-Stacy. In the fall of 1983, the Orediggers’ run continued with Tech again winning the Frontier Conference crown and playing in the District 12 tournament. It was the Orediggers fifth league title in less than a three year period. All those glorious times, great athletes and fabulous team will come together this weekend for a reunion here in Butte. The clubs will be honored at both the Montana Tech football game against MSU-Northern and also a pair of volleyball matches at the HPER Complex. It’s a fitting tribute to some great teams, wonderful memories and the glory days of Montana Tech women’s athletics.