CollegeFrontier Conference


Montana Western volleyball off to best start in program history

Posted at 1:51 PM, Sep 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-06 18:20:43-04

DILLON — After stunning top-seeded Montana Tech in the Frontier Conference volleyball tournament semifinals last season, Montana Western set out to start this season building off that win.

The Bulldogs, whose 12 overall victories last season were the most since 2005, have done that and are 6-0 through two preseason tournaments this year, the best start in program history.

"These girls have worked so hard and we were able to pick up where we left off last year," said fifth-year Western coach Katie Lovett. "We're hoping to keep it rolling, keep 6-0 and make it even further."

Lovett, who was hired following the 2018 season, inherited a program that hadn't posted a winning season since 2005.

Rebuilding a program that hadn't finished above .500 for over a decade has taken time. But for redshirt senior outside hitter Kaylee Kopp, whose first year with Western coincided with Lovett's debut season, the transformation she's seen this program undergo as she gets set for her final season has been remarkable.

"It's crazy how much progress, how much Coach Katie has taken since her first year," Kopp said. "We kind of grew up together, her first year was my first year. So just seeing how much she's taken over and how much she's really turned this program around, it's just awesome going from a whole new culture from where we started."

The Bulldogs opened their season with a pair of wins in Lewiston, Idaho, before going 4-0 at the OUAZ Invite in Surprise, Ariz, to lift Western to a record it had never seen before.

Junior outside hitter Jazi Smith, Western's kills leader last season, said playing smarter has helped her be a more consistent weapon for the Bulldogs.

"I got the taught the word "volleyball IQ" when I was a sophomore at my club team," Smith said. "It really just means how smart you can be about placing the ball. Placing the ball at the right spot can be a game changer."

For the first time in years, Western is rolling through the preseason as it gears up for conference play. The goal has always been to earn a national tournament bid — something that hasn't been done since Western's 1998 team became the first and only Bulldog squad to win a Frontier Conference title and play at nationals. But this year's team believes it has what it takes.

"It's a huge goal," said Kopp. "We're taking it game by game, but that's ultimately our goal. I think if we go at it and play relentlessly I think that's definitely achievable for us."