(Editor’s note: story by Montana Sports Information)
PORTLAND – The sweet feeling Montana felt less than a month ago, when the Grizzlies swept Portland State, was returned, this time with the Vikings earning the three-set win. Montana had chances in each set, but couldn’t capitalize at the right time, falling on the road (25-23, 25-21, 25-20).
Junior outside hitter Missy Huddleston had nine kills on .368 hitting, while freshman middle blocker – who ranks fifth in the Big Sky for hitting percentage – was again efficient with eight kills at a .438 clip. Senior outside hitter Mykaela Hammer had a double-double with 13 kills and 12 digs.
Montana had 21 hitting errors, but less than half of them were unforced. The Vikings out-blocked the Grizzlies 11 to 0, leading to a .279 hitting percentage for Portland State.
“There were moments where we had so much pressure on them, but they are a well-coached team and found our weaknesses and how to exploit us,” head coach Allison Lawrence said. “We got stuck in bad-ball situations and were hitting into the block from there.”
Montana jumped out to hot start, leading 9-3 just moments into the match. The Grizzlies pushed their lead to as many as seven points, forcing the Vikings to burn their second timeout at 18-11.
At that point, the set shifted. Portland State scored eight of the next nine points to tie the set at 19-19, and moments later took its first lead of the night.
“When what had been working stopped working, our adjustments put us into high-error zone, and we got streaky and stuck in rotations,” Lawrence said.
The Grizzlies tied the set at 23-23 following back-to-back kills from Cassie Laramee, but Portland State followed with consecutive kills of its own.
Montana again led in the second set, taking a multi-point lead following an Ashley Watkins dump and service ace (9-7). The Grizzlies would lead as late as 10-9 before Portland State used a 10-4 run to take command. The third set was much of the same. Montana led by scores of 5-2, 7-3 and 12-8 before the Vikings tied the score at 12-12. The two teams would be tied seven more times, before Portland State broke a 20-20 deadlock with the match’s final five points.
“They had two players back that weren’t playing in Missoula, so we knew they would be tougher,” Lawrence said. “Portland State is used to being at the top of the conference; historically that’s where they are, and they played like that.”
The Grizzlies will now travel to Sacramento State to take on the Hornets on Saturday afternoon. Montana beat Sacramento State in five sets last month in Missoula – overcoming a two-set deficit – but since then, Sacramento State has won seven of its past eight matches to live up to its preseason hype.
“The second half is a new part of the season,” Lawrence said. “The stakes are really high, and we have to be motivated to continue getting better.”