(Editor's note: University of Montana media release)
MOSCOW, Idaho — Montana earned its first Big Sky Conference victory of the season on Thursday night, sweeping Idaho on the Vandals' home floor (25-16, 25-22, 25-23).
From 1992-2018, the Grizzlies went 17 straight seasons without beating the Vandals in Moscow, but Montana has now posted wins in back-to-back trips. Additionally, Thursday's straight-sets win was just Montana's third Big Sky road sweep in the past eight seasons.
Idaho blocked Montana on each of the first two points of the match, but the Grizzlies regrouped and took their first lead at 5-4, on a block from Peyten Boutwell and Carly Anderson. Montana led for the remainder of the set, playing one of its cleanest sets of the season.
The Grizzlies served, passed, hit and blocked extremely well in the 25-16 win.
Montana hit .229 while forcing the Vandals into more hitting errors (10) than kills (nine), in large part due to five early blocks. The Grizzlies also served well, with three different players serving during 3-0 scoring runs.
The two teams were in tight battles in the second and third sets, but Montana led for the majority of both. When the Grizzlies did fall behind, they always felt in control. Even bigger, after going through a late-set slump over the past two weeks (Montana had lost six sets in the past three matches by two points, four in which the Grizzlies held a set-point opportunity), on Thursday they finished sets strong.
In Set 2, Montana called timeout holding onto a 23-22 advantage. Coming out of the break, the Griz won the final two points – winning a long rally on an Idaho attack error before junior outside hitter Jackie Howell finished the frame with a crisp kill.
The Griz finished off the sweep by again getting a kill out of a timeout, with Boutwell putting down the final point of the match.
A large part of the Grizzlies' success can be traced to its left-side attacking. It's no secret that Montana's offense has run heavily through its middle and right-side attackers this season, but on Thursday, it was the left side that stepped up and caught Idaho off guard.
Paige Clark, who has been used more as a server or setter during her freshman season, saw her first significant time attacking from the front row, leading the Grizzlies with 12 kills on .244 hitting, including five kills in the first set alone. Howell had nine kills, four blocks and several runs from the service line, including two aces.
Montana will now look to keep its momentum going against Eastern Washington (2 p.m. MT on Saturday). The Eagles are also 1-4 in Big Sky play following a four-set loss to Montana State on Thursday night.