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Montana State Bobcats win 1st volleyball Brawl of the Wild of 2019

MSU takes down Montana
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Posted at 11:16 PM, Sep 24, 2019

(University of Montana Media Release)

MISSOULA -- For two-thirds of a set on Tuesday, it looked as if the Grizzlies would hang with the visiting Bobcats. Missy Huddleston tied the opening set at 12-12 with an ace. A few points later Amethyst Harper gave the Grizzlies the lead with a kill, and then Ashley Watkins followed with another to take the Brawl of the Wild to its first media timeout.

Coming out of the break, Montana continued to apply the pressure, getting another kill from Harper. The Grizzlies were hitting over .400. They had the lead, the momentum and the home-court advantage. And then it fell apart.

Montana State broke the run on a Griz service error, and then got a kill and an ace of its own to regain the lead. Montana called timeout, but the run continued, with the Bobcats getting two more kills to take a 23-19 lead, and winning the set four points later by a score of 25-21. They would go on to win the final two sets, as well, to earn a victory in Round 1 of the Brawl of the Wild rivalry (25-21, 25-13, 25-18).

"It felt like we were executing our game plan and we had the momentum because we were playing in front of this amazing fan base," head coach Allison Lawrence said. "It felt like if we could score a few points on our serve we could hold them off, and one serve-receive run shut us down, and then it slipped away."

The Grizzlies hit a remarkable .429 in the opening set, totaling 13 kills to just one error. The problem, was, Montana State was nearly as good on offense, hitting at a .400 clip, and while the Grizzlies were so good offensively, they made six errors at the service line which proved to be the difference.

With momentum from a comeback win in Set 1, Montana State rolled in the second set. After hitting .429 and making one error, Montana hit .032 in the second set with nine attack errors. The Bobcats hit .423 and sided out at an astonishing 92-percent rate.

"They were really in rhythm, even more so because they came out relaxed after winning the first set," Lawrence said about Montana State. "We then started passing poorly and having breakdowns. After making one hitting error in the first set we had nine in the second, so we were just giving the ball back to them and I thought forcing things. Our passing breakdowns really led to some egregious errors."

The Grizzlies scored four consecutive points in the third set, getting within a point, 15-14, and forcing a Montana State timeout, but the Bobcats responded with the next four points to put the set out of reach.

Montana was paced by Harper's nine kills on .333 hitting. She had three kills in the first set and four more in the third.

Match Notables

  • Freshman outside hitters Amethyst Harper (nine kills on .333 hitting) and Elsa Godwin (seven kills on .417 hitting) had personal bests for hitting percentage.
  • Janna Grimsrud, Montana's kills leader on the season, was limited to a season-low four kills. She scored Montana's first point of the match but didn't record another kill until the second set.
  • After making six service errors in the first set, the Grizzlies cleaned things up and made just five more over the final two sets.
  • Both teams were limited to two service aces and three blocks apiece.
  • Montana State was able to side out at an incredibly high rate, successfully converting at a 72.2 percent clip compared to 50.7 percent for Montana.
  • Montana State's Evi Wilson (13 kills), Kelsie White (eight) and Hannah Scott (seven) combined for 28 kills and just one attack error, hitting a combined .482.
  • Montana State's Allyssa Rizzo ranks third in the nation with 6.00 digs per set, but was held slightly below her season average, with 16.
  • Set 1: Montana used a 10-4 run to take a two-point lead at 16-14. The Grizzlies also led 18-16, before Montana State scored seven of the next eight points. Both teams were clicking offensively, hitting over .400.
  • Set 2: Montana held a brief 1-0 lead and was tied at four other points, including at 6-6. Shortly after, though, the Cats used a 5-0 run to turn an 8-7 game into a 13-7 score. MSU out-hit Montana, .462 to .032 in the set.
  • Set 3: Montana used a 4-0 run to get within a point, 15-14, before MSU called timeout and scored the next four points.
  • Montana was playing its fourth match in the past five days while Montana State hadn't played in a full week.
  • The match was played in front of 907 fans inside Dahlberg Arena.

Quoting Lawrence
(on the match overall)
"I think the most frustrating part is that I feel like we're physical enough to do some good things, but I didn't feel like we were resilient tonight."

(on a strong start to the match offensively)
"I felt like we were in control. Both sides had their own momentum because we were both siding out well. We've been preparing to play good blocking teams and fast offenses, and one of the things we wanted to do was attack balls high and attack the perimeter of the block. I thought we did such a good job of that. We challenged the block. Elsa (Godwin) and Amethyst (Harper) got a lot of lot of kills off the block and Missy (Huddleston) was swinging high and deep."

(on Harper's strong night)
"She waited for her moments to get kills and then she managed the ball really well. She made some good decisions, which kept her errors down, and she was super aggressive with her feet. She's so jumpy and explosive that when she gets to the ball high it's hard for the block to line up on her."

(on the crowd)
"It's unbelievable to me the amount of support there is in this community. We've worked hard over the past three years to build relationships with this community, and the support we're getting back is unbelievable. The atmosphere with the fans and band made it so fun. There's a hunger to Griz Nation right now, and we're so grateful for that, and we want to give back to them as much as possible."

Looking Ahead
Montana will once again have a quick turnaround, traveling back to the state of Colorado on Wednesday morning. The Grizzlies have practiced in their home gym just once since last Wednesday, being in Colorado for the Thin Air Challenge Thursday-Sunday before having one practice on Monday and playing on Tuesday.