WICHITA, Kansas — Montana State's postseason run came to an end Saturday afternoon in a sweep at the hands of Wichita State in the Fab 4 round of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship.
Wichita State defeated MSU 25-21, 26-24, 25-20 to advance to the NIVC championship game. The Bobcats' playing in a national postseason for the first time, saw their season come to an end with an overall mark of 24-9.
The 24 victories under first-year head coach Matt Houk are the most in program history.
“We’re going to be sad and hurt for a while, but that’s okay,” MSU head coach Matt Houk stated in a press release. “But when the feelings subside, we want them to hold the thought of the great things that happened.
“We talked about all the statistical milestones we reached, but bigger than any of that is that they are the group that changed the culture of the program, and nobody can ever take that away.”
Morgan Stout finished with a match-high 14 kills and just one error to lead the Shockers into the championship round. Izzi Strand had 33 assists on Wichita State's 43 total kills. The team hit .313 collectively.
The Bobcats were led by Kira Thomsen's 11 kills, though the MSU standout attacker had seven errors and was contained to a hitting percentage of .111. Jourdain Kamps added 10 kills while Nellie Stevenson dished out 26 assists. Wichita State had 53 total digs, with Gabi Maas collecting 13 and Morgan Weber with 12.
MSU entered the match coming off NIVC wins over Pacific, Sacramento State and Wyoming — all on the road — and had 10 wins in its previous 11 matches.
Wichita State will face either South Florida or UTEP in the championship match next week.
Wichita State (25-8) jumped out to an early 7-4 lead in the opening set before the Bobcats settled into the match. Tied at 17-17, the Shockers went on a 3-0 run to separate themselves on the scoreboard.
However, a Jordan Radick kill pulled MSU to within 21-20 down the stretch. WSU rattled off the next two points and captured the opening set on a kill by Sophia Rohling.
“I didn’t feel we were playing bad in the opening set, but we seemed to miss things we hadn’t been down the stretch of the season,” Houk said. “It was kind of a funky feeling, but I always felt we were in it.”
The second set featured 12 ties and three lead changes. With WSU leading 15-14 at the media timeout, MSU came out of the break taking control with a series of six one-point advantages down the stretch.
The Bobcats held set point at 24-23 following an Avery Turnage kill, but Wichita State responded with the final three points winning the frame on a block by Rohling and Natalie Foster.
“At this point of the season and in the final points of a set, the margins are extremely thin,” Houk said. “Wichita had good weapons, and in the moment, made the plays we didn’t make.”
A Thomsen kill at the midway mark of the third set, pulled the Bobcats within 16-15, but the Shockers went on a 4-1 run and MSU never got closer than two points in the rest of the way. Wichita State captured the match on a Forster kill.
“Our six seniors gave us everything they had this season,” Houk said. “Whatever their role, they did it quite well. I’m sure the transition wasn’t easy for them, but they all bought in and helped to redefine what playing volleyball at MSU looks like. They are the catalyst for what’s to come with the program.”