(Editor’s note: Montana State University press release)
BOZEMAN – The Montana State volleyball team will conclude its spring season when it hosts Montana State Billings, Saturday, April 13 at 2 p.m. in Shroyer Gym. The scrimmage is free and open to the public and will be the best of five sets with a minimum of four games played.
Third-year head coach Daniel Jones used the eight-week long spring season to build on its successes of last fall, which saw the Bobcats make their first Big Sky Conference Tournament appearance since 2012, and just its second since 2005.
“Heading into the spring season we identified areas which we need to solidify in order to take the next step up the Big Sky Conference ladder,” Jones said. “We need to become more consistent with our ball control, especially first contact. We also need to establish our depth and find a clarity in understanding our defensive and offensive systems.”
Last weekend, Jones got a good look at the strides his team has made the past two months as the Bobcats traveled to Missoula, where it met Montana, Montana Tech and the University of Providence. MSU defeated Montana 2-0, Montana Tech 2-0, and split with the Argos.
“Competing at Montana was a great opportunity for us to test ourselves against an opponent other than ourselves,” Jones said. “The nature of the spring season is we play against ourselves a lot in practice, so getting the time on the court competing was invaluable.
“We mixed up our line ups and had everyone play,” he added. “As a coaching staff we were really looking to see who can apply what we are teaching in the gym daily into a competitive environment. We saw a lot of really good things; it is always great to get one over the Griz regardless of the time of year.”
The Bobcats return eleven letterwinners, including four starters and libero Allyssa Rizzo. Rizzo, along with outside hitter Evi Wilson, have been the backbone of the MSU program the past three seasons. Rizzo, a native of Crestwood, Ill., smashed the Bobcat single-season digs record last fall, and is on pace to become the program’s best-ever defensive player. Wilson, a product of Vancouver, Wash., registered 274 kills, 53 digs and 46 blocks last season.
“This spring has been incredibly productive,” Jones commented. “We have seen a shift in the mindset of our student-athletes towards their preparation, their intent and focus at practice and their connection as a group. As a staff, we have worked hard to be purposeful in the manner which we have taught about our culture, we have laid out a clear map for how we are ‘Building the Legacy’ of Montana State volleyball, and the team has responded to that clarity.”
MSU Billings went 13-17 overall last season and posted a 7-13 mark in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
“We have made big gains this spring, yet we know there is always room for improvement,” Jones said. “The team is showing a satisfying intent to find those areas of improvement. It’s going to be great to get on the court again this weekend and compete.”