(Editor’s note: Montana State University press release)
BOZEMAN – Southern Utah rallied from a 2-0 deficit to record a 19-25, 24-26, 25-20, 25-17, 15-11 decision over Montana State on Thursday night in Shroyer Gym.
Montana State (10-14, 5-8) was efficient with its offense over the first two sets, out-hitting Southern Utah (4-21, 3-10) .178 to .143. The Bobcat offense was sparked by Natalie Passeck, who returned to the MSU rotation after missing four matches due to injury. The Parker, Colo., product posted 12 kills in the first two sets to give the Cats the momentum heading into intermission.
Southern Utah used a late 6-1 run in the third frame to capture the energy from Montana State. The Thunderbirds cruised to a fourth set victory out-hitting the Bobcats .343 to .079.
In the final set, MSU took an 8-5 lead at the crossover. SUU quickly answered with a 9-2 run to take a 14-10 lead. MSU fought off two match points before Thunderbird setter Alexis Averett dumped the ball over on the second touch to give SUU just its third win in Big Sky play.
“I felt going into the locker room we were a little too relaxed, a little too at ease and we weren’t like that in the first set,” said MSU head coach Daniel Jones. “We came out in the third set flat and they jumped on us and we went .021 (attack percentage) and .079 in the fourth. We produced a little bit better in the fifth set, but when they’re out-hitting us .218 to .129, we know we’re going to have a really hard time.”
Passeck finished with a team-high 16 kills, while Hannah Scott and Evi Wilson added 11, apiece. Carina Lehto dished out 42 assists and added 15 digs, four blocks and three aces. Defensively, MSU was paced by Allyssa Rizzo with a match-high 34 digs. Scott added a career-high 19 saves, while Libby Christensen also hit double-digits with 15 digs.
“I think we passed well enough to sideout, but our decision making and execution lacked at times,” Jones said. “We didn’t give our hitters the best opportunities and it was a tough night. This one stings, but we’ll get another opportunity against Northern Arizona on Saturday night.”
SUU was led by Miranda Canez with 16 kills and a .552 attack mark.
MSU will host Northern Arizona on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Shroyer Gym.