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Montana State falls to Weber State in five sets in Big Sky title match

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Posted at 10:11 PM, Nov 24, 2023

(Editor's note: Montana State athletics release)

GREELEY, Colo. — Montana State’s bid for its first Big Sky Conference title came up short as Weber State rallied for a 22-25, 26-24, 21-25, 25-21, 15-13 victory to earn the league’s automatic berth to the NCAA Division I Volleyball Championship on Friday night in Bank of Colorado Arena.

Montana State (21-8) held leads in all five sets but found the going tough in closing out sets 2, 4 and 5 giving up runs of 10-4, 13-5, and 6-0, respectively. “You have to tip your hat to Weber State for making some nice plays and putting the pressure on,” said MSU head coach Matt Houk. “We were fighting but couldn’t find space and they served tough in that last stretch and knocked us out of system where we were forced into some difficult shots.”

The Bobcats looked every bit of a squad that entered the contest on a seven-match win streak, jumping out to a 6-1 lead. MSU never let Weber State (21-9) closer than two points the entire set and won the game on a Kira Thomsen kill.

Thomsen, a senior from Parker, Colo., recorded seven kills in the opening frame.

“We talked about having good energy to start the match,” Houk said. “And we talked about not letting the opponent define us. I thought we did a nice job executing the game plan. Kira was tough to defend, and it was the start we needed.”

MSU owned a 24-20 advantage late in the second set before the Wildcats fought off four set points on a 6-0 run to win the frame following a Bobcat hitting error.

The third set featured seven ties and six lead changes. MSU held a 15-11 lead at the media timeout, but Weber State tied the set at 19-all. MSU rattled off the next four points and went up 2-1 in the match on a Thomsen kill. Thomsen totaled six kills in the third set.

“The third set kind of epitomized the match,” Houk said. “It was two good teams going back and forth and throwing different things at each other. It showed the ebb and flow of the game, and how difficult it is to sustain a high level of play.”

Leading 17-12 in the middle of set four, WSU went on a 7-2 run to even the contest at 19-all. Tied at 20 and 21, the Wildcats closed out the stanza with four consecutive points.

“It certainly didn’t hurt Weber State that they have been in a championship and have that experience,” Houk said. “Those experiences have some advantages but first you have to get there.”

MSU jumped out an early 6-1 in the fifth and deciding set. The Bobcats held leads of 9-4 and 12-8 before the Wildcats once again flexed its muscle with a 5-0 run to take a 13-12 lead. Thomsen’s 28th kill of the match tied the score at 13-all, but the Wildcats closed out the match following a Bobcat hitting miscue and a block.

“I told them in the locker room that it is okay to be sad in these moments because you put yourself out there and it’s a risk you take,” Houk said. “A month ago, we talked about taking your heart out of your chest and putting it on your sleeve. The alternative is never getting there. We had an amazing month of November, and we have a lot to be proud of and we wish our seniors well. They’ve laid a solid foundation for the program.”

Thomsen finished with 28 kills, while adding seven digs, four aces and three blocks. Also in double-figures were Jourdain Kamps 11 and Madilyn Siebler 10. Kamps posted a double-double adding 17 digs.

Junior middle blocker Jordan Radick ended with eight kills and a team-high .462 attack mark, while Camryn Greenwald finished with a team-best five blocks.

Bobcat libero Lauren Lindseth anchored the backrow with 24 digs, while chipping in three aces. Setter Nellie Stevenson dished out 49 assists and added nine digs. Senior Shayla Webber finished with 11 digs.

Weber State was led by tournament MVP Dani Richins with 27 kills, a .313 attack mark and 18 digs.

For their efforts, Thomsen and Lindseth were named to the all-tournament team.