(Editor's note: Montana Tech media release)
SIOUX CITY, Iowa - The clock struck midnight, and the Montana Tech volleyball team was still on the court on Thursday evening playing its final matches of the NAIA National Volleyball Championships. The Orediggers defeated Saint Mary (Kan.) in straight sets before falling in a tiebreaker match to Indiana Wesleyan to advance to bracket play.
Montana Tech (27-8) rallied from a tightly contested first set that it won over the Spires 27-25 to take the second set 25-17 and the third and final set 25-23. The win kept the Oredigger hopes of advancing to the bracketed portion of the national tournament that begins on Friday.
The Orediggers hit for a .259 average against the Spires including a monstrous .579 attack clip from senior Heather Thompson who tallied 12 kills. Karina Mickelson registered 17 kills while Gena McMillan and Maureen Jessop each had seven kills. Sydney Parks added six kills for Montana Tech. McKenna Kaelber led the Diggers with 45 assists while Sabrina Hopcroft led the team with 17 digs.
The Orediggers' victory over the Spires advanced them into a one-set, winner-take-all tiebreaker match against No. 3 Indiana Wesleyan, which also finished Pool C with a 2-1 record. In the match to 25 points that started at nearly 12:45 a.m. local time, the Orediggers lost a heartbreaking back-and-forth battle 25-20.
For the Orediggers, it was the final matches for Hopcroft and Thompson, who were both four-year letter-winners. The Diggers finished the season with 27 wins, the most for the program under the direction of coach Brian Solomon, including being co-champions of the Frontier Conference regular season.