BUTTE – The Montana Tech volleyball team kicks off its season on Friday at the Spokane Tournament in Washington, but they want this year to have a different vibe.
The Orediggers kick off their season against No. 15 Eastern Oregon. Montana Tech comes in to the season ranked No. 12, having gone to the Final 16 in the NAIA National Tournament the past two years. But even though they have reached the top, they aren’t accepting another finish like that of the past two seasons.
“I want to get to the Elite 8 so bad, I really want to make it. I’m so tired of the Sweet 16,” said junior libero Sabrina Hopcroft. “But just going there two years, I think we can do so much better. It’s one game that we kind of have a rough time and if we can just get over that and do better.”
Hopcroft and the rest of the team can feel that this year is different. Not because of their height or how their team looks on paper, but because they have a special bond that just didn’t come with last year’s squad.
“We have a lot more team chemistry. Everybody gets along, everybody loves hanging out with each other. Even when we are outside of volleyball practice, we are still all together,” said Hopcroft.
Not only has the chemistry changed, but the Diggers roster has been revamped as well. Montana Tech has nine new players on the roster, seven of them freshman. Right off the bat, Tech will be facing two ranked teams on opening day, but head coach Brian Solomon isn’t worried about how his team will adjust.
“We will have a few freshmen challenging for some spots, but a lot of teams we are facing are in the same boat we are. So it will be fun, it will be a good time for (the freshman) to go out there and play some strong teams,” said Solomon.
To advance further than the past two years, Solomon admitted it will take “a special season with this group” to get over that Sweet 16 hump, but the players are motivated to take on that challenge. Numerous players on the Orediggers roster have been to the national tournament before and they feel like that experience will overcome their youth.
“We know what it feels like to play in those big games. To walk into that giant arena is the most terrifying, but coolest thing in the world,” said Hopcroft. “And to kind of put our experience on to the freshmen and let them know it’s going to be okay, you just have to take a deep breath. I think we can help everyone out.”