BILLINGS - Receiving contributions from all 14 players at Alterowitz Gym, the Montana State University Billings volleyball team rolled to a 25-11, 25-15, 25-18 victory over visiting Williston State College in its 2021 season debut.
The Yellowjackets (1-0) maintained control of the match from start-to-finish on Friday, utilizing a variety of lineups along the way and seeing production out of everyone on the roster. “In the beginning we had a bit of nervous energy, but it worked out throughout the three sets that we got to play,” said fifth-year MSUB head coach Casey Williams. “It was really nice to be able to get everyone some playing time, and I was really proud of our effort all around.”
Senior Bayli Monck led the strong offensive showing, with a match-high 12 kills to go along with five digs. “I felt really comfortable,” said the reigning first-team all-Great Northwest Athletic Conference selection. “There are parts of my game that I have struggled with before, and they got put together in this match. It felt really good to be back out there.”
“Bayli has continually gotten better the four years she has been here, and this is just the icing on the cake right now,” Williams said. “She is running routes that she hasn’t run before, and her consistency out on the court has been awesome for our team. She’s such a great leader, and I’m really excited for her to play this spring and continue in the fall as well.”
Joelle Mahowald also had a stellar showing in her debut, racking up seven kills on just nine attempts for a .778 hitting percentage. Junior Skylar Reed had six kills and six digs, and senior Maddi Vigil contributed five digs and three kills to highlight the performances by the team’s upperclassmen.
All six freshmen on the MSUB roster made their collegiate debuts on Friday, and all five of the hitters recorded a kill on the stat sheet. Olivia Schwartz led the way among the newcomers with four kills, while Carlyn Whitney added three and Jahsita Fa’ali’I, Shauna Stene, and Zoe Bibb had one kill apiece. Kennedy Juranek wore the libero jersey for the Yellowjackets during the second set, and tied for the team lead with six digs in her first MSUB appearance. “It’s huge. Not only did they get kills, but they were hyped up from getting them and everyone was super supportive,” Williams commented on the impact of each of the six freshmen. “I was really excited with our freshmen, and I thought they crushed it throughout the match.”
Sophomore setters Hannah Hashbarger and Hailey Carroll split the match, with the former registering 16 assists and the latter leading the way with 19 to go along with six digs.
Williston State (0-5) was led offensively by Natalie Edgar, who had four kills in the match. Jade Llamas, Isabel Evans, and Sydney Labatte had three kills apiece, while Llamas led the team with eight digs on the evening. Williston State suffered from a -0.51 attack percentage on the match, compared to a mark of .301 put forth by the Yellowjackets.
In each of the three sets, MSUB used the middle portion to separate itself from Williston State. The Tetons kept things relatively even in the opening frame, trailing just 10-8 early. The first-career kill from Fa’ali’I kick started an ensuing rally however, as MSUB won seven of the next eight points to open up its first big lead of the night.
Stene was the next freshman to get on the board as she slammed down the team’s 24th point of the opening set, and Monck put away a set from Hashbarger to give the Yellowjackets the 25-11 triumph in the opener.
The Tetons won five straight points at the beginning of the second set, again helping them keep things close early with the score at 9-9. Back-to-back kills from Vigil however got the MSUB offense rolling again, and the ‘Jackets rallied their way to a 20-12 advantage over the next 14 points that proved too big for the Tetons to overcome.
Williston State continued to fight into the final set, and got as close as 14-13 midway through the period. Two more loud kills by Monck upped the spread in favor of the ‘Jackets, and Whitney won the team three of its final five points with kills to close out the match.
MSUB had eight service aces to go against six service errors, and finished the match with five total blocks. “Individually we are all working on our court presence as a whole, and I thought we came out ready to play and win,” Monck said. “I didn’t have any doubts in my mind regardless of what lineup we had out there. I thought every single one was pretty solid, and that makes me super excited.”
THE BUZZ: Monck was selected as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game…Friday marked MSUB’s first match against outside competition since Nov. 28, 2019.
AHEAD: The Yellowjackets are next in action on Feb. 23, with a road match against crosstown rival Rocky Mountain College. First serve is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Fortin Center, and live coverage will be available through www.msubsports.com [msubsports.com].