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Montana Grizzlies volleyball's offense sputters in loss at Idaho State

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Posted at 10:28 PM, Jan 25, 2021

(Editor's note: University of Montana media release)

POCATELLO, Idaho – A day after opening the 2021 volleyball season with a road win over Idaho State, the Bengals flipped the script with a 3-0 victory over Montana on Monday night (25-18, 25-15, 25-21).

Montana struggled to find any consistency offensively, hitting .042 on the night, with 18 kills and 19 errors through the first two sets. Sophomore Amethyst Harper led Montana with 12 kills on .219 hitting, but no other Grizzly had more than six kills.

"Our inexperience showed up big time tonight," fourth-year head coach Allison Lawrence said. "We had one shot that we would go for, and when that wasn't working, we'd end up erring or try to hit harder, but we weren't able to create any shots with our feet."

In addition to struggling offensively, the Grizzlies also weren't able to block the way they did on Sunday, when they tallied 14 stuffs – a total reached just twice a season ago. On Monday, Montana was limited to just four blocks, which helped Idaho State hit .292.

Aside from at the service line, the Bengals were polished, making just six attack errors, compared to 26 for the Griz.

"They didn't make errors, and they kept the ball in play," Lawrence said of Idaho State. "They blocked well, dug well and extended rallies, and they put the pressure on us."

Montana was slow out of the gate, falling behind 7-3 early. A 5-0 run several points later built Idaho State's lead to 13-6, which the Grizzlies were never able to erase. Montana got within three points a handful of times, including 21-18, but the Griz recorded consecutive errors to close the set.

Montana lost the first set on Sunday, but was able to bounce back in the next two to take control of the match. The Grizzlies weren't able to do the same on Monday, falling in an early 9-2 hole in the second set. Montana cut the deficit to three, 12-9, after four consecutive points, but Idaho State responded with six of the next seven to build an 18-10 advantage. Montana again scored four straight points to cut the deficit to 19-15, but the Bengals scored the final six points of the set – including four on Montana attack errors – to win the set.

The Grizzlies came out of the break with energy and quickly built a 5-0 advantage to open the third set. The spurt was Montana's best sequence of the night, but it wasn't sustainable, as Idaho State chipped away to claim a 14-13 lead. Montana would tie the score at 16-16 and 20-20, but could never get over the hump.

"We passed better and controlled the first contact, which was one of our goals, but couldn't buy a kill and would get stuck in rotations," Lawrence said about the match. "As our offense got more stressed, our passers would get stressed and then it felt like we couldn't breathe."

As frustrating as the loss is for Lawrence and her team, the positives she took out of the defeat were the fact that the Grizzlies now have specific things to work on as they return to the practice court later this week, something particularly helpful for a young team that played five newcomers – in addition to six sophomores – on Monday.

The Grizzlies will return home with a road split, something that isn't easy to come by.

"With all that has happened in the past year, we have to expect that we'll have some big breakthroughs and some big setbacks," Lawrence said. "As frustrated as we are, we split this weekend, and more than that, we learned so much about our team that we haven't been able to do without playing an outside opponent.

"We're completely running forward, and now we can take this and make our practices better and make our team better."

Match Notes

Junior transfer Jordyn Schuette made her Griz debut in the third set, recording an assist late in the frame… Montana out-dug Idaho State 48 to 31, led by 13 from Elsa Godwin and 12 from Harper… Montana also recorded just two service errors… In addition to her 13 digs, Godwin had back-to-back service aces in the second set… She now has four aces on the season… Godwin served during three separate runs of at least three points and had kills to tie the third set at 16-16 and 20-20… Harper has now led Montana for kills in both matches this season, and has been in double figures for kills in 14 consecutive matches dating back to her freshman season… She had five kills on .444 hitting in the first set alone.

Looking Ahead

Montana will now prepare for a home series against Weber State, a team that was picked to finish second in the Big Sky Conference preseason poll and is currently 2-0 on the young season, after a pair of wins over Eastern Washington. The Grizzlies and Wildcats will play Sunday at 2 p.m. and Monday at 7 p.m. While fans will not be admitted, both matches can be streamed worldwide on Pluto TV.