MISSOULA — The Main Line Trophy is again on the line Friday as the Montana volleyball team heads to Montana State for the second Brawl of the Wild rivalry match of the season.
The Grizzlies took the first meeting in dominant fashion, sweeping the Bobcats when the teams met in Missoula in late September, and has won the past four matchups in the series.
But the teams have gone in opposite directions since their last meeting — the Griz have lost four of six matches while the Cats have won four of six. Both teams, though, enter Friday's rivalry match having lost their past two games.
"I think the conference is crazy as ever,” UM coach Allison Lawrence stated in a UM athletics release. “We’ve seen a lot of upsets and a lot of unpredictability from teams. It’s an exciting place to be. We’ve had our ups and downs and inconsistencies, as well, but we’re ready to continue hitting our stride but also find new levels to our game as we hit this back half (of the conference schedule).”
The Griz — who last season defeated the Cats in Bozeman in front of a Big Sky Conference-record crowd of nearly 6,500 fans — will be looking to play spoiler once again. MSU is currently 6-3 in the conference standings, just one game back of Weber State (7-2) and two games back of first-place Sacramento State (8-1). Montana sits at 4-5 in Big Sky play and tied for sixth in the conference after dropping both matches last week.
MSU senior outside hitter Kira Thomsen, a three-time all-Big Sky Conference selection, is having an impressive final season with the Bobcats. She currently leads the league in kills per set (3.96) and points (4.52). Thomsen’s 2.42 digs per set are second on the Bobcat squad, while her .228 attack mark also second best.
Thomsen's 1,431 career kills rank second on MSU’s all-time kills chart, 22 shy of breaking Diane Terrall’s record.
Carly Anderson, UM's senior setter, continues to leave her mark on the Griz record books. She has 3,372 career assists, which ranks seventh all-time in program history. This season, Anderson is third in conference play with 9.44 assists per set. She's also 10th in the Big Sky with 11 service aces, including at least one ace in four straight matches.
"It’s a big one in terms of getting us in rhythm as we head back home and spend more time at home,” said Lawrence, alluding to Montana's upcoming schedule in which it plays four of its final six regular-season matches at home. “But also just every win in the conference right now is key to positioning in the conference tournament and just making it into the conference tournament.”
Friday's Cat-Griz contest is set to begin at 7 p.m. inside Brick Breeden Fieldhouse. It will be the 123rd time the rivals have met on the volleyball court. The all-time series is even at 61-61 dating back to the 1975 season.