(MSU Billings release)
BILLINGS - In a Great Northwest Athletic Conference battle, the Montana State University Billings Yellowjackets came out on fire with a strong first set but still fell 3-1 to second ranked Western Washington University Vikings Friday night at Alterowitz Gymnasium. MSUB opened up with a resounding 21-15 first set win and fought hard the entire match including having a game point in the fourth set, but WWU held onto win the final three sets in a row 25-21, 25-20, 28-26 to avoid the upset.
Hannah Hashbarger set up MSUB hitters all night with 49 assists and beautiful movement of the ball on the court. She also chipped in two kills and 6 digs. Maddi Vigil led the team in kills with 14, adding 6 digs and hitting .204. Bayli Monck recorded her 6th double-double of 12 kills, five assisted blocks and a team high 19 digs. Freshman libero Marissa Logozzo was close behind her with 18 digs on the night.
Skylar Reed held a hitting precetage of .391 while striking down 11 kills. Sophomore middle Eavan Taylor hit a solid .357 with seven kills and four block assists.
The Vikings barley outhit the Yellowjackets in the match .235 to .234 and three players recorded double-digit kills for Western Washington. The most effective of the three was Calley Heilborn, who recored a double-double of14 kills and 17 digs while hit .406 for WWU. Tess Biscup finished with 13 kills and ended with the highest hitting percentage of the game at .600. Gabby Gunterman produced 12 kills on the night. Defensively, Heilbron led the field with 17 digs. The Vikings also out blocked MSU Billings 10-9.
“We came out ready to play tonight,” said head coach Casey Williams. “We did a great job moving the ball around and our passers did a great job of putting Hashbarger in systems that lead to many one on one opportunities. I am proud of the way we fought tonight against a really good team and I am excited to carry this performance into tomorrow.”
The Yellowjackets produced one of their best offensive sets the entire year hitting .444 as a team with Hashbarger leading the way from her setter position. MSUB opened up a 7-3 lead and never looked back. An ace by Logozzo made it 20-10 followed a few points later by a kill from Vigil to give MSUB match point at 24-12. Skylar Reed served up an ace the very next point to secure the first set win 25-12. “Hashbarger was great tonight,” commented Williams. “She did a great job of moving the ball around, being consistent and she made some really big time plays.”
The Vikings shot out to a second set lead, but MSUB fought their way back to tie at 12-12 to then take their first lead of the set 13-12 after a kill from Monck. WWU retook the lead 19-18 and never looked back. A kill by sophomore Evan Taylor brought the ‘Jackets within three 21-24, but WWU finished off the set 25-21 with a kill from Gunterman.
The third set saw three lead changes and three ties in a back and forth battle that was representative of the entire match. A kill from Vigil tied the game at eight which was followed by an exchange of points that ended with an 11-10 advantage for WWU. The Vikings preceded to go on a run to push their advantage 19-13. A timeout from Williams lead to a three point run for MSUB to make it 19-16. WWU called a timeout and closed out the third set to win 25-20.
A battle ensued in the fourth set as fans were privy to an extended play. MSUB came out hot again taking an 8-4 advantage. They held onto that almost the entire way holding a 20-16 lead going into a WWU serve. A block by Vigil gave the ‘Jackets the 21-16 advantage but a 3-0 run by the Vikings, lead to an MSUB timeout. In an intense final set, the Vikings and Yellowjackets traded blows. MSUB had a set point at 24-23, but WWU fought off the point on a kill from Gunterman.
It was WWU’s turn for match point at 25-24, but MSUB tied the game on a Reed kill. A massive solo block by Vigil fought off the Viking’s second match point to tie again at 26-26. The third match point proved to be the final blow, as a block from Heilbron secured WWU’s escape from Alterowitz with a 3-1 victory, 28-26 in the fourth.
Western Washington remains undefeated at 14-0, 6-0 GNAC. Montana State Billings drops to 4-10, 2-3 GNAC with the majority of their conference matches left to play.
UP NEXT: The Yellowjackets play again Saturday October 5 at 2 p.m. in Billings against Simon Fraser University (6-7, 2-3 GNAC). Next week, MSUB is on the road for matches against Central Washington and Northwest Nazarene.
THE BUZZ: Hannah Hashbarger earned St. Vincent Healthcare player of the match for the Yellowjackets. Her 49 assists were her second highest mark of the season and well above her 26.2 per game average…Montana State Billings fell to 1-27 all-time against Western Washington University. MSUB last won in September, 2014 at home.