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Montana volleyball wins North Dakota tournament

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Posted at 4:54 PM, Sep 12, 2021

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

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The Montana volleyball team traveled to Grand Forks, North Dakota, on Thursday and will return with three wins and a tournament title. The Grizzlies earned wins over Green Bay (3-2), Drake (3-2), and host North Dakota (3-0) to win the UND Classic.

It marks Montana's first outright tournament championship since opening the 2005 season with three wins in Maine.

Due to tiebreakers, the Grizzlies technically had won the tournament after their afternoon win over Drake, but Montana earned the outright championship after beating North Dakota Saturday evening, the program's first victory over the Fighting Hawks since 2009.

Saturday's win over Drake was impressive on multiple fronts. First due to the level of competition. Drake is a team that finished its spring season with its highest-ever finish in the Missouri Valley Conference and, after returning nearly every player, was picked to finish second this fall in the MVC's preseason poll, earning a handful of first-place votes. Second was the way that the Grizzlies won the match. Montana lost the first two sets to the Bulldogs and never led in either of the two sets. Drake, on the other hand, had won its first two tournament matches and was on the cusp of winning the UND Classic title.

The Grizzlies, though, won the third set with relative ease before winning the fourth, as well, pulling away late after 13 tie scores early. That set up a deciding fifth set, Montana's fifth in eight matches to begin the season.

Montana left no doubt, scoring five of the first six points and burning an early Bulldogs timeout. Leading 5-3 moments later, the Grizzlies then scored six consecutive points to run away with the set.

The Grizzlies' win over North Dakota was historic in another way, as Montana beat the Fighting Hawks for the first time since 2009. The Grizzlies won the initial meeting between the two schools, but lost the next 15 when the two were Big Sky foes, most-recently playing in 2017 when North Dakota won the Big Sky championship.

After four five-set wins to open the season, Montana earned its first sweep since October 2019. The Grizzlies were absolutely dominant through the first two sets, hitting .389 (31-5-70) compared to .117 for the Fighting Hawks (21-12-77). Montana's only deficit came during the first three points of the second set.

The Grizzlies trailed by as many as six points in the third set, but went on a 9-0 run late with Elsa Godwin serving to set up match point.

"Our first match went so late, and I think that helped us, because we had so much adrenaline from winning the first one," Lawrence said. "We went back to the hotel for about 45 minutes, ate a couple sandwiches and got back to the gym. That much adrenaline from a huge win propelled us through the first two sets tonight."

Sophomore middle blocker Ellie Scherffius was named the UND Classic MVP, her second all-conference nod of the season. Sophomore setter Carly Anderson and junior outside hitter Elise Jolly were also named to the all-tournament team.