BUTTE – The second and final day of the Frontier Volleyball tournament kicked off at 11 a.m. with 4-seed Lewis-Clark State taking on top-seeded Rocky Mountain College.
Rocky came into the tournament on a first round bye so the semifinal game was the first time we saw the conference undefeated Battlin’ Bears show why they were the No. 1 seed. Credit to Lewis-Clark State, they held their own in every set and always made things interesting.
The Warriors were led by Rachel Gregg and Aubrey King, each providing some much needed spark when the time called for it. However, watching Rocky’s dominance throughout the game definitely confirmed why they were the No. 1 seed and undefeated in conference play. At the net, Natalie Hilderman dominated, grabbing big points in the trenches. Daniella Rusell and Olivia L’Ami also chipped in and completed a well-rounded Rocky effort. They would go on to sweep the Warriors 25-20, 25-18, 25-15. Rocky advanced to the conference championship match with the win.
The second semifinal featured 2nd-seeded University of Providence and the host team, No. 3 seed Montana Tech. On paper these two teams appeared to be the most balanced, and close sets were almost guaranteed. The Orediggers were led by Masha Korol and Kyra Palmer providing offense when needed, but Tech struggled to take a lead against Providence.
The Argos controlled the tempo for most of the match, maintaining the offensive and defensive flow of the game. Kelsey Shaver was huge on offense for the Argos, and numerous times Isabelle Parker and Sydney Anderson wreaked havoc at the net with an almost impenetrable wall. The Orediggers fought and clawed their way back all game long, but the Argos would defeat Tech in four sets, 25-22, 25-18, 21-25, 25-19.
The final match of the evening brought the championship between Rocky and Providence, the top two seeds in the tournament. Right away the Argos showed energy. Led by Lauren Brown and Ember Schwindt, they kept themselves neck-and-neck with the Bears in the first two sets. And when it mattered the most, the Argos picked up set points in those sets to take all the momentum heading into what could have been the third and final set.
However, Rocky had other plans.
The Bears fought back with great play from Miranda Gallagher and Hailey Copinga to win the third set and started to build their own momentum. But the Argos came out in set four and took an early five-point lead and never looked back, winning the Frontier Conference tournament in four sets over Rocky Mountain College 28-26, 25-22, 20-25, 25-14.
The tournament championship was the first for coach Arunas Duda and the first in program history for the Argos, who clinch an automatic spot in the 2018 NAIA national tournament. Rocky, which entered the week No. 8 in the nation, seeks an at-large bid in the tournament.