(Editor’s note: Story by Montana Sports Information)
MISSOULA – Montana closed its 2018 home slate on Thursday night, falling in straight sets to a hot Weber State team (25-18, 25-21, 25-23). The Wildcats have now won four consecutive matches and are a game out of first place with one match to play.
For the Grizzlies, they were competitive in each set, but had to dig themselves out of early holes and play from behind.
Weber State scored the match’s first six points, forcing head coach Allison Lawrence to burn an early timeout. The Grizzlies fought back to get within two, 20-18, before the Wildcats scored the next five points to win the set. Again in the second set, Weber State won the first four points to jump out to an early lead. Montana again fought back, getting to within one, 11-10, but could never get over the hump.
The Grizzlies took their first lead of the night in Set 3, and led by as many as three points. Montana led as late as 15-14, before Weber State scored the next four points to go up for good.
“We have to give a ton of credit to Weber State,” head coach Allison Lawrence said. “That’s the best serving team we’ve faced all season. Their serving got us rattled, especially in the first set, where we couldn’t pass and were afraid to swing out of system. They did a great job putting the pressure on.”
• Sophomore Baily Permann had eight kills on .438 hitting (8-1-16), including a stretch in the first set in which she had three straight UM points. Over her past three matches, Permann is averaging 8.0 kills on .525 hitting, plus nine total blocks.
• Senior Cassie Laramee played in just one set on last week’s road trip and didn’t record a swing. The senior had six kills on 18 attempts on Thursday, however, including five kills in Set 2 alone, all coming during a nine-point span for UM. Laramee also had Montana’s only service ace.
• Mykaela Hammer led all players with 15 kills at a .289 clip. She also had a team-high-tying four blocks. The senior has led Montana for kills 18 times this season.
• Weber State entered the match ranked second in the Big Sky for blocking (41st nationally), but Montana tied the Wildcats with seven blocks apiece. Hammer and McKenzie Kramer each had four blocks.
• Freshman Olivia Bradley had played in just three sets since Oct. 20, but entered the match midway through the second set and recorded a kill on the ensuing play. She again checked in midway through the third set and had a block during a 3-0 Griz run to tie the set at 13-13.
• Despite the loss, Montana finished its 2018 home slate with five wins, the most in a season since 2013.
• Montana averaged 575 fans per match this season, the program’s best attendance average in 23 years.
• Thursday was the final home match for six Grizzlies: Silerolia Gaogao, Brittany Gay, Hammer, Kramer, Laramee and Alexis Urbach.
(on the team’s strong, but inconsistent, hitting)
“When we passed the ball to target, we were hitting really well. We just couldn’t do it consistently, which has been the story of our season. The lapses are devastating.”
(on individual standouts)
“I thought Olivia (Bradley) and Kenzie (Kramer) did a good job supporting each other; Liv had a couple kills and I thought Kenzie blocked really well. Baily (Permann) hit really, really well. Cassie (Laramee) came in and executed at a high level”
(on the momentum Montana had in the third set)
“I felt a shift and felt like we were going to win that set. The girls were responsive, making big plays and playing loose. They knew it was our last home game and were going to do whatever it took to fix what problems we were having.”
(on the fan support)
“I’m so thankful for our amazing fans this season. They stuck by us and brought energy all season long, and have been a fundamental part of the growth of this program. We love our fans.”
Montana has one match remaining in the regular season, traveling to Pocatello, Idaho, for a Saturday night match at Idaho State. With a win, Montana would advance to the Big Sky Championship for the first time since 2014; the Grizzlies can also qualify by Southern Utah losing at Idaho.
Despite what’s on the line, Lawrence’s focus for her team remains the same.
“I want us to go into the match really calm,” Lawrence said. “Rather than focus on any outside distractions of what does this all mean, I just think we need to work on fixing us and making us better. Let’s show up and play a really consistent, disciplined and focused match mentally, emotionally, and physically, and let’s play for each other. Whatever the outcome is, the outcome is.”