(Editor’s note: Montana State University Release)
MISSOULA – Montana State got out to the lead it wanted, but was unable to hold on as Montana rallied from a 2-1 deficit to post a 16-25, 25-18, 22-25, 27-25, 15-11 win over the Bobcats on Tuesday night in Dahlberg Arena to remain undefeated in Big Sky Conference play.
Montana (6-9, 3-0) out-hit Montana State (6-8, 1-2) .188 to .123 over the final two sets to even the all-time series between the two rivals at 56-56 dating back to the 1975 season.
“Any match we play against Montana is going to be tough,” said MSU head coach Daniel Jones. “The fact that we’re both doing well this season was reflected in a high-quality match. This was the best match between our two schools since I’ve been involved in the rivalry. It was a high-level, good volleyball match.”
The Bobcats looked to be in control early, scoring the final seven points of the opening frame behind the blocking efforts of McKayla Landreth and Carina Lehto to take a 1-0 advantage.
The Grizzlies turned the table in the second set as MSU’s passing broke down and service errors led to a 19-11 UM margin. Montana closed out the set on a kill by Cassie Laramee.
The see-saw battle continued in the third stanza as the Bobcats scored three straight points on a kill by Evi Wilson, a service ace from Libby Christensen and a UM hitting error via Mykaela Hammer. MSU went up 2-1 following another Hammer hitting miscue.
The fourth set featured nine ties and two lead changes as MSU chased UM throughout most of the set. The Bobcats finally took the lead following pair of Grizzly hitting errors to go up 20-18. Following a UM timeout, a Bobcat service error followed by a Grizzly ace evened the score at 20-all. MSU then held leads at 21, 22, 23 and 24, before Montana tied the set on a Hammer kill. At 25-all, the Grizzlies received a Hammer kill coupled by a block from Baily Perman and Ashley Watkins to force a fifth set.
The final set was tied seven times before Montana broke away with three consecutive points, taking an 11-8 lead following a block by Hammer and Olivia Bradley. The Bobcats would get no closer down the stretch as Montana took the match on a kill by Marshall.
“Talking with Coach (Allison) Lawrence after the match we both agreed that this could be a Big Sky Conference championship match in the near future,” Jones commented. “I’m proud of our fight. The girls never backed down in front of a raucous atmosphere. Sure it hurts, but the beauty of athletics is that we get another opportunity to compete on Friday night.”
Natalie Passeck guided MSU with a team-high 14 kills, while Evi Wilson added 12. Defensively, the Bobcats were paced by Allyssa Rizzo with a match-high 24 digs, while Lehto 17, and Christensen 10, also reached double-digits. Montana State was paced at the net by Landreth with a match and season-best 11 blocks.
Montana had four players in double-figure kills led by Hammer with 15 kills and 19 digs.
Montana State will play at Northern Colorado on Friday.