(Editor's note: MSUB media release)
Making its season debut in the first volleyball tournament at Montana State University Billings since 2014, the MSUB Yellowjackets went a perfect 2-0 with wins over Black Hills State and Bemidji State in the Yellowjacket Invitational Presented by Hilton Garden Inn on Friday night.
“It was a long day at the gym by playing at 1 p.m., and then showing up early to help the tournament run the way we wanted it to,” Head coach Casey Williams said. “They definitely put hours in the gym, but I was proud of how they finished. It was a little bit later than we hoped for, but I’m proud of the effort they put in today.”
Senior right-side hitter Bayli Monck and junior opposite hitter Skylar Reed finished with 22 and 21 kills across both games, respectively, to lead the Yellowjackets (2-0) in the doubleheader. However, key contributions from freshman Tiffany Chandler, solid play in Christine Funk’s debut at libero, plus key defensive plays from sophomore Hannah Hayden rounded out the Yellowjacket highlights from an action-packed day of volleyball.
Friday’s games also marked the first time the team has won its first two games of the season since 2018, when the team started 6-0. Saturday’s doubleheader against Minnesota State University Moorhead and South Dakota Mines in the nightcap will give the Yellowjackets opportunities to match get closer to that mark.
- MSUB outhit Black Hills State .314 to .045 in the first game, then followed that up by outhitting Bemidji State .232 to .121.
- Junior setter Hannah Hashbarger amassed 27 assists against Black Hills State and 32 against Bemidji State. She also chipped in 10 digs across both games.
- In her collegiate debut, freshman outside hitter Tiffany Chandler got the start and finished with six kills, seven digs and one block assist. The next game, she outdid that performance with eight kills, seven digs, two aces and three total blocks.
- Speaking of collegiate debuts, freshman libero Christine Funk tallied 11 digs and two service aces while playing in all three assists against the Yellow Jackets. Against Bemidji State, she added nine digs, three assists and a service ace.
- MSUB held Black Hills State to a .045 hitting percentage – the lowest mark an opponent has hit against the Yellowjackets since they held Saint Martin’s to a .037 hitting percentage on Oct. 17, 2019.
Game 1 – MSU Billings 3, Black Hills State 0 (25-17, 25-13, 25-20)
In a battle of the yellow insect mascots, the Yellowjackets (one word) rolled over the Yellow Jackets (two words) thanks to double-digit kills from Bayli Monck and Skylar Reed. As a team, they limited Black Hills State to a miniscule .045 hitting overall – the lowest since Saint Martin’s hit .037 against the Yellowjackets in 2019.
Reed cited the energetic play in all facets of the game as one of the main reasons behind the season-opening win.
“It really comes from firing on all cylinders,” Reed said. “When we have a good pass, [Hannah Hashbarger] can set us up and put us in good position. Then we have our defense talking to us up on the offense, and we can put balls down that we needed to put down.”
After a bad set from Black Hills State gave the MSUB Yellowjackets their first point of the season, both teams traded runs early in the first set. Freshman libero Christine Funk notched her first collegiate service ace in her second serve of her career to give MSUB a 4-2 lead, before Black Hills State responded with a run of its own. Trailing 9-7 in the first set, MSUB took advantage of three-straight Black Hills miscues before back-to-back kills from Reed gave the home team the lead for good. Reed rattled off five kills in a short span midway through the first to extend the lead to four points at 15-11.
The Yellow Jackets wouldn’t get closer.
MSUB limited Black Hills State to hitting -.034 in the first set, all while four different Yellowjackets chipped in kills down the stretch to win the first set 25-17.
The next set was more of the same, as Reed opened the second set with her sixth kill of the game – all with a little help from freshman libero Christine Funk. The freshman dove to keep the ball in play, Reed sent it over with a long pass in front of her own bench, then bolted over to the net, where she tapped the ball over Black Hills State’s front line to win the point.
From there, the Yellowjackets bolted out to a 5-1 lead that quickly ballooned to 10-3 off three kills from Monck and a slew of Yellow Jacket miscues. MSUB kept control of the game with energetic play and an overpowering offense, which effectively put the Yellowjackets in the driver’s seat for the rest of the game.
“From this last spring, we’ve been talking about energy both on and off the court, and I think we delivered today,” Reed said. “We’ve been working on that in practice every single day; it’s one of the things that we pride ourselves in.”
Two Black Hills State timeouts didn’t stop MSUB’s momentum; the team maintained a double-digit lead throughout the second set thanks to big swings from Reed, Monck and senior Joelle Mahowald, the latter of whom finished with six kills and two blocks on the day.
As MSUB poured it on the visitors in the second set, freshman setter Briel Norman made her collegiate debut and quickly found her teammates for kills on three-straight possessions to give MSUB a 19-9 lead. Two more kills from Reed put the Yellow Jackets away for good; she would finish with five in the second set, matching her production from the first.
Black Hills State mounted one last rally early in the third set, keeping pace with the Yellowjackets to make things six-all. Then the floodgates opened thanks to Monck and Hayden’s defense at the net, then kills from Monck and Mahowald to give MSUB a 14-9 lead. One more run from the Yellowjackets from Monck and Mahowald gave MSUB the lead for good; the latter ended the third set with three kills and two blocks to give MSUB the win.
“I think it was awesome to see [the upperclassmen] play so well, especially after not getting a real season last spring,” Williams said. “For them to be out there and lead us physically, emotionally and mentally was really cool for me to see.”
Game 2 – MSU Billings 3, Bemidji State 0 (25-22, 25-17, 25-18)
After a late start due to the previous game going five sets, the Yellowjackets and Bemidji State Beavers played one of the toughest sets of the night to open the game. Despite three lead changes and falling behind early, the Yellowjackets battled back and took a lead they wouldn’t relinquish off a kill from Monck to make the score 12-11.
A late service ace from Hailey Carroll gave MSUB an 18-15 lead, effectively putting the Beavers at arm’s reach for the rest of the first set. The Yellowjackets played a cleaner game than the Beavers overall, but especially late in the first set when MSUB took advantage of Bemidji State’s errors take a 21-15 lead late.
The second set was all MSUB, thanks to hustle plays from Carroll and Marissa Logozzo, plus 12 kills from the upperclassman trio of Monck, Reed and Mahowald. Leading 11-9 in one critical point in the set, Carroll dove to keep the play alive, which set up one of the many Hashbarger-to-Monck connections on the night. The Beavers would claw back within five points, but wouldn’t get closer.
With a 2-0 lead, freshmen Christine Funk and Tiffany Chandler helped keep the Yellowjackets in control in the third set, both with their back-line defense and big swings up front, respectively.
“Our energy is relentless,” Chandler said about the third set. “That’s what we are. If we’re struggling, we’re not going to stop until we win or until we do our absolute best.”
Chandler opened the third set first by assisting Hannah Hashbarger on the junior’s second kill of the night, then by notching back-to-back kills of her own to give MSUB a 4-2 lead. Although Bemidji State rattled off three more points, Chandler once again came through to quash the rally with her third kill of the set, zipping the ball on a tough angle past Bemidji State’s front line. The freshman would finish with six kills in the third set, plus a pair of service aces for good measure.
“She jumped so well and with a 29-inch vertical, she sees the court really well and she’s got great overhead ball control, Williams said. “She’s learning the timing with the fast offense, but I think with throwing her to the wolves today, she did awesome and I’m really proud of her performance.”
Bemidji State had one last gasp towards the end of the third set to pull within three points at 21-18, but sophomore Hannah Hayden’s second solo block of the night, Reed’s eleventh kill and more stellar defense from Hayden at the net sealed the deal for the Yellowjackets.
“Hannah Hayden worked super hard at the net and it’s so cool to see her getting the results that everyone wants,” Williams said. “Her footwork is right where we want it, she’s great overhead and she’s making awesome moves. I’m super happy for her.”
THE BUZZ: Skylar Reed was named St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game in the first match against Black Hills State...she finished with 10 kills, a dig, a block assist and notched a .500 hitting percentage…Bayli Monck was named the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game in the match against Bemidji State for tying Reed with a team-best 11 kills on a .400 hitting percentage.
UP NEXT: MSUB faces Minnesota State Moorhead (0-2) on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. before closing out the Yellowjacket Volleyball Invitational with a 7 p.m. game against South Dakota Mines (1-1). Both games will be livestreamed on MSUB’s YouTube channel, and live stats can be accessed on msubsports.com.