(MSUB Athletics release)
BILLINGS, Mont. – In their final non-conference road trip of the season, The Yellowjackets (5-5, 1-1 Great Northwest Athletic Conference) will travel to Rocky Mountain College (10-5, 2-0 Frontier Conference) for a 7 p.m. match in the Fortin Center on Tuesday. It will be the 57th match between the Billings schools with Montana State University Billings leading the all-time series 37-19. Both teams have defended their home court in the series with the ‘Jackets owning a 26-7 record at Alterowitz Gym while Rocky has a 12-11 in their home arena.
LAST TIME OUT: MSUB opened GNAC play in Billings last weekend by splitting matches against University of Alaska and No. 18 University of Alaska Anchorage.
The ‘Jackets opened conference with a 3-2 win over the Alaska Nanooks on Friday night. Izela Alvarez led the MSUB defense with 35 digs including nine in the 26-24 third set that put the ‘Jackets in the driver’s seat. Maddi Vigil recorded a massive double-double against the Nonooks as the freshman finished with 18 kills and 22 digs. Bayli Monck led the Yellowjackets in kills with 19, while Alexa Smythe recorded a season-best 30 assists to set the MSUB offense.
In their second GNAC match of the season the ‘Jackets were out matched by the No. 18 University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves and fell 3-1. MSUB earned the third set of the match 25-23 after pushing the Seawolves in the 25-22 second set but it wasn’t enough. Monck led the ‘Jackets in kills for the sixth time on the season with 13. Junior transfers Katie Campbell and Jordan Mix played a significant role in third set victory. Alvarez did all she could defensively to give the ‘Jackets a shot to get back into the match but the Anchorage attack proved too effective down the stretch.
NUMBERS AND NOTES
THE 6-8 PUNCH: Vigil and Mock have become the attacking tandem that kick-starts the ‘Jackets offense in the early season. The two freshmen have led MSUB in kills in every match this season. Vigil has a team-best eight matches with 10 or more kills while Monck has had seven such performances. Monck currently leads the team with 121 kills on the season which ranks seventh in the conference just ahead of Vigil whose 115 kills places her eighth in the GNAC.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO DIG FOR ALVAREZ: It didn’t take long for opponents to spot the ‘Jackets freshman libero as a special defensive talent as both Alaska teams avoided the Alvarez as much as they could. The Dumas, Texas native has the top average digs per set in the conference with 5.54 through 10 games. She is the only freshman that ranks in the top-20 in the GNAC for digs. Only one player in the conference has more total digs than Alvarez’s 194, Anchorage’s senior Keela Kaio-Perez has three more digs but has played 11 more sets than the MSUB libero.
Rocky picked up two wins in three days last week as the Battlin’ Bears scheduled Alaska Anchorage in-between two Frontier Conference tilts. On Thursday they opened conference play with a 3-0 win over Montana State University Northern. The following day they welcomed the No. 18 Seawolves, and lost a 3-1 decision before hosting the University of Providence on Saturday and finished their weekend with a 3-0 victory.
Junior Olivia L’Ami leads the Bears in kills this season with 3.5 per set and 181 total through 15 contests. Senior libero Holland Fergurson leads the RMC defense with 262 digs at a 5 dig per set pace while Hailey Copinga averages a block per game on the front line.
Laurie Kelly is in her tenth season as the head coach of the Bears and is coming off of her fifth trip to the NAIA tournament in the past six years. She was named the Frontier Conference Coach of the Year and the Northwest Region Coach of the Year in 2014.