(Photo courtesy MSU Billings)

(MSUB Athletics release)

BILLINGS – In their second-to-last road trip of the regular season, the Yellowjackets (6-16, 2-10 Great Northwest Athletic Conference) will return to Washington for matches against Saint Martin’s (8-13, 3-10 GNAC) and Seattle Pacific (11-10, 6-7 GNAC). It will be the second time the ‘Jackets play each of the schools with MSUB having swept the Saints and losing in five sets to the Falcons in Billings. MSUB will play at SMU on Thursday at 7 p.m. Pacific time and in Seattle on Saturday at 7 p.m. Pacific time.

LAST TIME OUT: MSUB dropped a three set match on Tuesday night against cross-town foe Rocky Mountain College. Rocky swept the season series with a pair of 3-0 wins over the ‘Jackets. Izela Alvarez totaled 37 digs to lead MSUB. Bayli Monck set a new personal best with four block assists in the match followed by Hali Ehresmann and Miranda McConnell who each recorded three. For the 11th consecutive match Maddi Vigil led the ‘Jackets in kills with her total of eight.

NUMBERS AND NOTES

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ALVAREZ DIGS INTO TOP-10: On Tuesday night Alvarez recorded 37 dig in the match against Rocky Mountain College. It was her second highest single game total this season and moved her to ninth place all time with 422 digs this season. With two matches this weekend, Alzarez is likely to move up in the record books as only 18 digs separate her from the number two spot on the list, Diane Vargo’s 440 digs from 1998. Erin Compton holds the record with 577 digs in the 2012 season. The performance also puts the freshman back on top of the GNAC rankings for digs per set as her average rose to 5.63. No other freshman is in the top-20 for digs in the conference.

NEW FACES MADDI VIGIL: The freshman outside hitter is learning on the fly as she has been the top offense force in her first season with the Yellowjackets. The Ogden, Utah native has only been playing volleyball for five years but a dynamic athletic and competitive background has groomed her into a top-10 talent in the skilled Great Northwest Athletic Conference. Learn more about Vigil and her journey from a national contender in an individual sport to an emerging leader on the volleyball court in the third installment of this year’s New Faces series.

OFFENSIVE WOES: The MSUB attack has not recorded a hitting percentage above .100 in the past six matches. The last time they eclipsed .100 was on the road at Concordia University in a 3-0 loss. Thursday provides the opportunity to get back on track as the ‘Jackets will face a Saint Martin’s squad that was swept by MSUB while the ‘Jackets hit .298 in the match. MSUB has all six of their wins and only one loss when hitting above .200 this season.

FILL IN THE RANK: Izela Alvarez leads the GNAC with 5.63 digs per set and also ranks seventh in aces per set with .32 off of her 24 aces this season. Kylee Clarke is fifth in the conference with 9.16 assists per set and Alexa Smythe is eighth with 7.50 assists per set. Maddi Vigil is ninth in kills per set at 3.34 and 10th in points 3.64. Bayli Monck is 20th in kills 2.58.

GNAC PACK: No. 8 Western Washington and No. 10 Northwest Nazarene continue to be the class of the GNAC with 11-1 records against conference foes. No. 25 Central Washington is tight on their heels with a 10-2 conference record and Alaska Anchorage is fourth with a 9-3 mark.

OPPONENT PREVIEW

SAINT MARTIN’S UNIVERSITY SAINTS: The Saints were swept in a close 26-24, 25-20, 25-21 match against Seattle Pacific on Tuesday night in Lacey, Wash. Eight of SMU’s 13 losses have come by sweep this season.

The ‘Jackets put together one of their best matches of the season in the Sept. 30, win over the Saints in Billings. MSUB recorded their second-best hitting percentage of the season as they swung at a .298 clip on their way to recording 44 kills as a team.

Vigil led the team with 13 kills while Katie Campbell tallied a season high nine kills with a .350 hitting percentage. Miranda McConnell also had a fantastic outing hitting .417 on seven kills and contributing a solo block as well as a block assist. Alvarez had 17 digs in the match and Alexa Smythe tallied 37 assists.

Senior Rebecca Mitchell ranks sixth in the GNAC with 3.46 kills per set as she is the sole Saint in the top-20 in the conference for kills. Another senior Nicolette Nesbitt is seventh in the league with 8.11 assists per set. The Saints have had success with their serve this season as Courtney Misner and Emily Gooding rank 10th and 16th respectively for aces per set.

Freshman Kamile Langford is ninth in the conference with 1.03 blocks per set for SMU. Hannah Neumann leads the team with 4.04 digs per set followed by Mitchell’s average of 3.14 ranking 20th.

Jon Killingbeck is in his second season with the Saints after going 6-18 in his first season at the helm. The Central Washington University alumnus spent the previous five seasons as the head coach at Iona College.

SEATTLE PACIFIC UNIVERSITY FALCONS: The Falcons took a five set victory from the ‘Jackets in the first meeting of the season 18-25, 25-18, 26-28, 25-15, 15-5. Six of SPU’s wins this season have come in five sets as the Falcons have played 10 five set matches.

In the first meeting with the Falcons, the ‘Jackets played one of their three five-set matches of the season. It is the ‘Jackets only five set loss at home this season after the ‘Jackets beat Alaska in five sets to open the conference season in Alterowitz Gym.

Alexa Smythe had a season-high 48 assists in the match as Vigil posted a season-best 22 kills paired with 18 digs for a double-double. Bayli Monck accumulated three block assists for the ‘Jackets and Alvarez totaled 29 digs.

Gabby Oddo had 23 kills to lead the Falcons in the win over the ‘Jackets while Amanda Ganete picked up 24 digs. On the front line, Nicole Tchabanov totaled 7 blocks for SPU. Symone Tran had a big night with 55 assist in the win.

Oddo ranks eighth in the conference with 3.39 kills pet set followed by freshman Olivia Turner’s 2.69. Tran’s 855 assists give her an impressive 9.72 average, good enough for fourth in the GNAC.

Tchabanov leads the defense for the Falcons with 1.21 blocks per set ranking fifth in the GNAC. Ganete is 10th in digs per set with a 4.28 average.

Abbie Wright is in her first season as head coach of Seattle Pacific after spending the last four seasons as an assistant coach at Biola University in Los Angeles, Calif. She was named the NAIA Assistant Coach of the Year in 2015 as Biola earned its first-ever No. 1 national ranking.

FOLLOW LIVE: Live video and statistics will be available for all MSUB home matches and all GNAC road contests throughout the 2017 season, through MSUB’s Stretch Internet portal.

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