(Editor’s note: Montana State University athletics release)
GREELEY, Colo. — Top-seeded Northern Arizona flexed its offensive muscle en route to a 25-21, 25-13, 25-16 win over Montana State on Thursday afternoon in the opening-round of the Big Sky Conference Tournament hosted by Northern Colorado.
For the match, Northern Arizona out-hit the Bobcats .398 to .071 and held a 50-26 advantage in kills.
“NAU is the best team here in terms in seeding and they played hard,” said MSU head coach Daniel Jones. “I expect them to be in the championship match on Saturday. There were some balls that I thought would fall, but didn’t, and that’s credit to them. I thought we proved we can battle with any of the team in the Big Sky, but we lacked in our consistency and that’s something we’ll focus on as we move ahead.”
Montana State (11-19) stayed with the Lumberjacks in the opening set, which featured nine ties. Northern Arizona (24-8) used a 6-2 run in the early going to take a 14-10 lead, before the Bobcats answered with four straight points capped by a Libby Christensen service ace to even the frame at 14-all. The two teams traded points down the stretch before NAU closed out the game on a 3-0 run.
Northern Arizona out-hit the Bobcats .459 to .097 in the second stanza paced by seven kills via Heaven Harris. The Lumberjacks took a 2-0 advantage on a Brittni Dorsey kill.
Montana State trailed 11-10 in the final set, before Northern Arizona rattled off a 10-3 run to put the match away.
Montana State was paced by Hannah Scott with eight kills and a .273 attack mark, while Natalie Passeck and Evi Wilson added six and five kills, respectively. Passeck, MSU’s lone senior, finished one kill shy of reaching the 1,000-kill milestone, and finished her stint with the Bobcats ranked 16th on the all-time kills chart.
“Natalie has left a legacy,” Jones said. “She’s been with us through the lowest times and leaves on a high. She’s done things and made sacrifices throughout her career that have culminated in leading us to our first Big Sky Tournament in five years.”
Allyssa Rizzo finished with a team-high 18 digs. The Crestwood, Ill., product ended the season with 624 saves, shattering the old school record of 514 set in 2011 by Nicole Baker.
“I can’t wait to get in the gym again with (Allyssa) Rizzo,” Jones said. “She’s already talking about what it’s going to take to get back to the tournament next year. She’s the type of kid that values team success over individual accolades, but she had one heck of a season.”
The Bobcats 11 victories were one more than last season and its most since 2012. MSU also made its first Big Sky Conference Tournament appearance since 2012, as well.
“The growth continues to happen,” Jones said. “We experienced some growing pains this year, but to face the adversity we did and keep forging ahead speaks volumes of the potential we have for next year.”