(Editor’s note: Montana State University press release)
MOSCOW, Idaho – Despite dropping a hard-fought 25-16, 25-21, 26-28, 25-20 decision to Idaho on Saturday afternoon, Montana State quickly found its silver-lining as the Bobcats officially secured a sport in the Big Sky Conference Tournament.
Montana State (11-16, 6-10) holds tiebreakers over Montana, Portland State and Southern Utah to claim one of two spots remaining in the tournament. MSU would be making its first conference tournament appearance since 2012 and just its second trip since 2005.
On Saturday afternoon league-leading Idaho (20-8, 14-2) out-hit Montana State .385 to .231 to claim the four-set win. In the opening frame, the Vandals broke away at 15-14 lead with 7-0 run to cruise to a 1-0 advantage.
UI maintained its momentum in the second set which featured 12 ties and six lead changes. The Vandals held a 23-21 margin and received back-to-back kills by Sarah Sharp to take a two set cushion into intermission.
Montana State rallied from a five-point deficit in set three with a 9-3 run to take a 15-14 lead following a kill by Evi Wilson. Despite the set being tied seven time down the stretch, the Bobcats gave up the lead just once.
The Vandals served match-point at 25-24, but an Idaho ball-handling error tied the set for the 11th time. Even at 26-all, the Bobcats received a kill from Hannah Scott, before Wilson put an exclamation point on the set with her fourth kill of the frame.
With the final set tied at 19-all, Idaho used a 4-0 run to put the match away. The Vandals secured the victory on a kill by Reece Carmen.
“The team displayed significant growth,” said MSU head coach Daniel Jones. “It was disappointing to lose, but we know if we tidy a few simple things up on our side we have the ability to beat anyone in our conference.”
Wilson and Scott paced Montana State with 11 kills, apiece. Natalie Passeck chipped nine kills and 10 digs, while setter Carina Lehto dished out 32 assists, and added 10 digs, four kills, four blocks and three aces.
Defensively, Allyssa Rizzo registered a match-high 14 digs.
Idaho was led by Sharp with 21 kills and three blocks.
“We’re excited to get home for Idaho State and Senior Night,” Jones said. “We have the opportunity to achieve some big goals, our destiny is still in our hands.”
MSU will begin the final week of regular-season play when it hosts ISU on Thursday in Shroyer Gym.