(MSUB Athletics photo)

(MSUB Athletics release)

BILLINGS, Mont. – With only six matches let the Montana State University Billings Yellowjackets (7-17, 3-11 Great Northwest Athletic Conference) will compete in their final two home matches of the season this weekend. Western Oregon (6-16, 2-13 GNAC) will visit Alterowitz on Thursday at 7 p.m. before Concordia (10-12, 5-10 GNAC) enters on Saturday at 2 p.m. for the home finale.

LAST TIME OUT: The ‘Jackets split a pair of conference matches in Washington last weekend highlighted by a five set win over Saint Martins on Thursday. With the win, MSUB earned its first sweep over a conference opponent this season and they still have the opportunity to sweep the University of Alaska if they can beat the Nanooks in their final match of the season in Fairbanks. Seattle Pacific earned a straight-sets victory over the ‘Jackets on Saturday night in Seattle.

NUMBERS AND NOTES

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SWEEP THE REWARDS: With the five-set road win over Saint Martin’s University on Thursday, the Yellowjackets have now swept at least one conference opponent in four consecutive seasons. Three of the four years, the ‘Jackets have swept the Saints including this season. MSUB is currently on a seven match winning streak against the University of Alaska whom they beat to open their conference schedule this season. If the ‘Jackets beat the Nanooks in their season finale it would be the third time in four years that MSUB swept both the University of Alaska and Saint Martin’s. The streak began when the ‘Jackets swept a trio of conference rivals in 2014 – SMU, UA and Western Oregon.

IF SHE’S NOT FIRST, SHE’S SECOND: Playing three matches last week, Izela Alvarez made a charge up the Yellowjackets record ranks for digs in a single season. The freshman put on a dazzling display while collecting 87 digs in the three matches to bring her season total to 472, the second highest total in program history. With six matches left Alvarez needs just 28 digs to be the second player to ever reach 500 digs in a season for the ‘Jackets. With 106 more digs, Alvarez could set the new record in her first season at MSUB. If the ‘Jacket’s libero maintains her current average over the minimum amount of sets possible (18) during the final six games, she would fall four digs short of Erin Compton’s record of 577 digs in 2012.

10 KILLS, THREE TIMES: Three times this season the ‘Jackets have had three players record double-digit kills in a single contest. In those matches MSUB is 2-1 with a hitting percentage of .186. The ‘Jackets accomplished the feat in their first match of the season when Bayli Monck, Maddi Vigil and Hali Ehressman each had more than 10 kills in a five-set loss. Since, MSUB has had a trio of attackers reach 10 or more kills in two conference wins. First, when Monck, Vigil and Miranda McConnell led the attack against the University of Alaska and most recently when Jordan Mix, Taylor Sherman and Katie Camplbell teamed up in the win over Saint Martin’s on Thursday. In the 21 matches that the ‘Jackets have not had three players reach double-digit kills they have a hitting percentage of .134.

READY SET GO: The ‘Jackets have played the most matches of any team in the GNAC to this point in the season with 24 games and 83 sets. MSUB is tied with Western Washington University with the fewest sets per match average at 3.45. Freshmen Izela Alvarez and Hali Ehresmann are the only ‘Jackets to appear in every set for MSUB this season and the pair lead the team in digs and blocks respectively. The University of Alaska Anchorage averages the most sets per match this season with 4.2.

FILL IN THE RANK: Izela Alvarez leads the GNAC with 5.69 digs per set and also ranks eighth in aces per set with .31 off of her 26 aces this season. Kylee Clarke also joined the top-20 in aces after scoring five aces last week to move her average to .27, which ranks 13th. She is sixth in the conference with 8.18 assists per set and Alexa Smythe is eighth with 7.06 assists per set. Maddi Vigil is ninth in kills per set at 3.24 and 10th in points 3.54.

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

WESTERN OREGON UNIVERSITY WOLVES: The Wolves come into Thursday’s match on a seven match losing streak with their last win coming against the Yellowjackets. Western has been swept in their past five contests including a loss to Concordia on Tuesday.

In the first meeting against the Wolves this season, the Yellowjackets had one of their toughest matches as the offense couldn’t get clicking in the 3-0 loss. MSUB had 24 kills undone by 18 errors. Alvarez had 15 digs in the match followed by Vigil with 11 and Sherman with nine. WOU recorded their top hitting percentage of the season, .288 in the win over the ‘Jackets.

Alisha Bettinosn and Mariella Vandenkooy lead the Wolves’ offense and rank fifth and 13th in the conference with 3.53 and 2.90 kills per set respectively. Vandenkooy had 20 kills and a .326 hitting percentage in the first meeting with the ‘Jackets. Leila Holt and Maddie Mehciz share setting duties for the WOU offense as they each average more than five assists per set. Mackenzie Bowen leads the back row with 3.80 digs per set.

Tommy Gott is in his first season as the Wolves head coach after being an assistant at his alma mater Chico State for seven years. Gott played middle blocker at Golden West College before transferring to Chico State where he earned his bachelor’s in kinesiology. He earned a master’s degree in intercollegiate athletic leadership from the University of Washington in 2014.

CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY CAVALIERS: The Cavaliers have played tough all season having only been swept by the top teams in the GNAC, Western Washington and Northwest Nazarene. CU snapped a four-game skid with the win over Western Oregon on Tuesday.

The Cavaliers rode a .321 hitting percentage to a 3-0 win over MSUB earlier this season in Portland, Ore. Maddi Vigil led the attack for the ‘Jackets with 17 kills and a .295 hitting percentage. Bayli Monck hit .348 in the match with nine kills for MSUB.

Lindsay Dorsey leads the Cavaliers with 3.5 kills per set, fifth in the GNAC and a .240 hitting percentage. Dorsey had a team-leading 17 kills in the win over MSUB in Portland, Ore. Fellow senior Colby Barnette is sixth in the conference hitting .290 this season and averaging 2.8 kills per set. Barnette also has success on defense where she ranks sixth in the GNAC with 1.15 blocks per game. Anna Dols and Allie Spear are 14th and 17th respectively in digs per set.

Melanie Hambelton is in here ninth year at the head of the Concordia volleyball program. In her nine seasons, she has become the winningest coach in program history with 152 wins. Before joining the Cavaliers while they were still a member of the NAIA, Hambelton was head coach at Estacada High School in Estacada, Ore.

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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