(Editor’s note: story by Montana Sports Information)
MISSOULA – Big Sky Conference play started perfectly for Montana volleyball senior Mykaela Hammer. Not only was the outside hitter named the Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week on Monday afternoon, but her Grizzlies won both matches, starting 2-0 in conference for just the second time in the past decade.
Hammer is the first Grizzly to be named Big Sky Player of the Week since Capri Richardson in 2014.
“It’s a real honor,” Hammer said. “I’ve been working really hard for this, and it’s been a goal of mine to get it at least once in my career. It’s for sure a team effort, but I can’t put into words how happy I am.”
Hammer averaged a double-double with 19.5 kills and 10.0 digs per match over the week, doing so at an impressive .443 efficiency. Her 4.88 kills-per-set average was nearly double the next-closest Grizzly.
More importantly than the individual award, Hammer’s performances helped the Grizzlies earn wins over Sacramento State and Portland State to begin Big Sky Conference action 2-0. Sacramento State was the 2017 Big Sky regular-season champion, while Portland State advanced to the tournament semifinals. Both teams were picked to finish in the top four of the 2018 preseason poll.
In a come-from-behind victory over Sacramento State, Hammer recorded a career-high 23 kills on .409 hitting, eclipsing her previous high for kills on the final swing of the match. The Grizzlies found themselves trailing two sets to none, but closed the third set on a 10-5 run to extend the match. Hammer had three kills during that stretch. Trailing 15-11 in the fourth set, Montana used a 9-4 run to take the lead. During that period, Hammer had four kills. The Grizzlies then scored three of the final four points to earn a 25-23 advantage, with a pair of kills coming from Hammer.
In the deciding fifth frame, the Grizzlies jumped out to a 5-0 lead and never trailed. Hammer had two kills during the 5-0 run, plus the final point of the match.
Two nights later vs. Portland State, Hammer again led the Grizzlies, this time with 16 kills on .500 hitting. The outside hitter also recorded three service aces.
Montana jumped out to an 11-5 lead in the first set, with Hammer recording four kills and serving five points during the run. Leading by just one, 13-12, in the second set, Hammer had three consecutive points – a kill and back-to-back service aces – to force a Vikings timeout. She had seven kills, an ace and a block in Montana’s Set-3 victory to seal the match.
Hammer, from Oro Valley, Ariz., is a fifth-year senior who led the Grizzlies for kills in 2017. She graduated in May with a degree in marketing, and is completing her final semester by working toward a second degree in management.
The Grizzlies host rival Montana State Tuesday night in Dahlberg Arena, where they will aim for a 3-0 start for the first time since 2006. Montana is offering a buy-one-get-one-free ticket special. Tickets can be purchased online or at the Adams Center ticket office. Students get in free, and the first 100 students will receive a free T-shirt and pizza.