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Montana volleyball wins home opener

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Posted at 11:19 PM, Sep 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-02 12:45:50-04

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

MISSOULA -- The Montana volleyball team made its home debut on Wednesday with a five-set win over the Seattle Redhawks (25-23, 22-25, 25-27, 25-17, 15-10). The Grizzlies – who have now had three of their four matches go to a full five sets – fell behind 2-1 before rallying to win the fourth and fifth sets.

Montana hit .311 as a team, its highest hitting percentage since November 2019, and just the fourth time the Grizzlies have hit over .300 in a match over the past six seasons. In addition to the team's hot hitting, Montana also out-blocked the Redhawks, 11.0 to 3.0, and was able to successfully side out at a 65-percent rate.

Montana had three players in double figures for kills, led by career highs for seniors Peyten Boutwell [] (16 kills on .520 hitting) and Elsa Godwin [] (16 kills at a .375 clip). Junior outside hitter Elise Jolly [] added 13 kills, while senior libero Sarina Moreno [] recorded 25 digs.

As has been the theme all season, Montana was locked in a tight battle early. The first three sets were decided by a combined seven points, with the third set going past the traditional 25 points. So far this season, eight of 19 sets have had a margin of the minimum two points, with 14 being decided by five points or fewer.

After Montana won the opener, 25-23, the Redhawks evened the match with a 25-22 win in Set 2. Montana fell behind by as many as six points in Set 3, but rallied to tie the score at 19-19, and take a lead moments later. After fighting off a Seattle set point at 24-23, the Grizzlies earned one of their own, at 25-24. The Redhawks, though, rallied to win the set, 27-25, and take a 2-1 match advantage.

Despite being down, the Grizzlies looked like a different team heading into the fourth set. After 31 tie scores and 15 lead changes through the first three frames, the two teams were tied just twice more over the final two sets – at 1-1 of both Set 4 and Set 5.

Montana jumped out to an 8-3 advantage in the fourth, forcing an early Seattle timeout as the Grizzlies had four kills on six swings, in addition to a block and a service ace. The Grizzlies kept their foot on the gas, never trailing and holding a comfortable lead throughout the set, hitting a scorching .500 (14-2-24).

With the momentum turned, Montana didn't let up in the final set, scoring seven of the first 10 points and never looking back, leading by as many as six points in the shortened set. The Grizzlies again were on fire, hitting .462 (8-2-13).

Montana's three outside hitters – Godwin, Jolly and junior Catie Semadeni [] – combined for 10 kills and zero errors on 13 swings (.769 hitting percentage) in the fourth set, with Godwin also blocking three balls. Godwin added two more kills in the fifth set, with Boutwell and sophomore middle blocker Ellie Scherffius [] combining to add five more.

Scherffius led Montana with six blocks, one of four Grizzlies to tally at least four, while sophomore setter Carly Anderson [] dished out 52 assists.

While Boutwell and Godwin rightfully stole the headlines on Wednesday for their career nights offensively, Lawrence celebrated the win as a team effort, all the way down to senior defensive specialist Kelsey Nestegard [], who came off the bench to serve and finished with an ace.

Montana, which had just one practice to prepare for Seattle, will now have another tight turnaround. Less than 12 hours after the conclusion of Wednesday's match, the Grizzlies will already be in the air traveling to Brookings, South Dakota, for the SDSU Invite Friday and Saturday.