(Editor’s note: story by Montana Sports Information)
GREELEY, CO – Montana’s four-match winning streak came to a halt Thursday evening at Northern Colorado, with the Bears sweeping the Grizzlies (25-14, 25-20, 25-17). Montana could never get into an offensive rhythm, leading to quick work from the Bears.
“I think this match was discouraging because we felt so far away from competing,” head coach Allison Lawrence said.
Montana led at just four points throughout the night, and never by more than a single point or later than 3-2. The Grizzlies had four players with at least five kills, but none with more than six. UNC totaled 19 more kills than Montana overall (48 to 29), and limited the visitors to .096 hitting – UM’s second-worst percentage of the season.
“UNC did a really nice job of knowing our tendencies,” Lawrence said. “As soon as we started to break down, kind of in every area of our game, we became extremely predictable. We became so patterned that they knew what we were going to do before we did it.”
Trying to find some sort of offensive spark, Lawrence substituted Brittany Gay into the setter position midway through the second set. She finished the match at setter, recording eight assists, one kill and one block.
“Brittany thinks through a match well and makes good decisions,” Lawrence said. “She’s always ready to go, and we thought a new look might help us become less predictable. She did a nice job.”
UNC used a 7-1 run early in the opening frame to jump out to a quick lead. Montana never rebounded, trailing by at least four for the remainder of the set. Montana trailed the second set 24-15 before scoring five points in a row to force a UNC timeout. The run featured back-to-back service aces from freshman Olivia Bradley, who also had five kills and two blocks on the night. The rally came too late, though, as UNC got the next point following the timeout.
Leading by just two, 14-12, midway through the third set, UNC closed the match on an 11-5 run.
Senior Alexis Urbach led Montana with six kills on .556 hitting (6-1-9). All six kills came in the second and third sets. Mykaela Hammer also had six kills, but just two after the first set. UNC’s Brittany Lawrence and Lauren Hinrichs combined for 21 kills and just one error (.435 hitting).
The loss is frustrating because Montana wasn’t competitive, but after two weeks of conference action, the Grizzlies are 3-1 – already matching last season’s Big Sky win total. Montana’s 3-0 start to Big Sky play was its best since 2006, while its four-match winning streak overall was the team’s largest in five seasons.
“We’re still feeling really good about where we’re at,” Lawrence said. “We’ve had a great start, and while that’s given us confidence in a lot of areas, we need to really understand that the real work is ahead of us. Every day is the same, no matter what our past success or failure has been. If we’re really going to be in the conversation for the (Big Sky) tournament, we have to get better each match, because each night could determine if we make it.”
After four matches in eight days to begin conference play, the Grizzlies will now have a full week before their next match, Oct. 4 at Southern Utah.