(Editor's note: Montana State Athletics press release)
BOZEMAN -- The Senior Night script was almost perfectly executed, but in the end Northern Arizona held on for a 25-21, 25-14, 24-26, 16-25, 17-15 victory over the Bobcats on Saturday night in MSU’s final home match of the season in Shroyer Gym.
Northern Arizona (18-10, 11-5) looked primed to sweep the Bobcats in three sets and ruin its Senior Night celebration behind a strong offensive performance in the first two sets. NAU out-hit Montana State (13-12, 9-7) .382 to .169 in the opening frames as the Lumberjacks rode the arm of junior outside hitter Heaven Harris. Harris, who returned from an early season leg injury, posted 10 kills and hit an impressive .769.
“We came out flat and struggled with the serve-receive game,” said MSU head coach Daniel Jones. “I thought Evi (Wilson) did a nice job for us offensively as we fought to find ourselves.”
The Bobcats were able to turn the momentum in the third set and build a 12-8 advantage on a Wilson kill. NAU closed to within 22-21 down the stretch following a Bobcat hitting error, but once again, the Cats fended off the Lumberjacks. An Aubrea Bandfield kill evened the set at 24-all, but MSU closed out the game on a Hannah Scott kill and a Lumberjack setting error.
“I’m proud of the fight our kids showed tonight,” Jones said. “They had us on our heels, but we dug down and battled to the end. Our seniors really led us and that’s what you want to see at this time of the year.”
The Bobcats cruised to the fourth set victory out-hitting the Lumberjacks .206 to -.029.
In the fifth and deciding set, NAU jumped out to a sizable 7-3 lead, but MSU countered with four straight points behind the serving of Allyssa Rizzo. Northern Arizona retook a 10-7 advantage following a Ryann Davis kill, but once again MSU answered the call with three consecutive points capped by an Emma Pence kill.
The two teams traded points down the stretch with the set tied three times before Montana State held match point at 14-13 on a Wilson kill. The Lumberjacks scored back-to-back points and held its first match point at 15-14 following an MSU hitting error. An NAU hitting miscue evened the set at 15-all, but the Lumberjacks closed out the match on an Abby Akin kill followed by an Akin and Davis block.
“It was two good teams going toe-to-toe,” Jones said. “It was a battle for third place in the league. I believe we’re playing our best ball right now and that’s all we can ask. We’ll continue to build on this as we close out the regular season next week and look ahead to the tournament.”
Wilson matched a career-high with a team best 21 kills, while recording a .312 attack mark. She also posted her fourth double-double of the season chipping in 11 digs. Also in double-digit kills for MSU were Scott 11 and Kira Thomsen 10.
Defensively, Rizzo closed out her illustrious career in Shroyer Gym with a match-high 29 digs. Thomsen also posted double-digits with 12 saves. Pence paced MSU at the net with five blocks.
Harris guided NAU with 20 kills, a .357 attack mark and four blocks.
MSU closes out its regular season next week when it travels to Idaho State on Thursday and Weber State on Saturday night.