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Montana State Bobcats volleyball upsets reigning Big Sky champ Northern Colorado

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Posted at 8:53 PM, Jan 24, 2021

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

GREELEY, Colo. – The Montana State volleyball team upset the defending Big Sky champions and the unanimous preseason favorite Northern Colorado 25-22, 28-26, 25-18 on Sunday afternoon at Bank of Colorado Arena in the Big Sky opener for both squads.

The Bobcats also snapped a 29-match losing streak to the Bears, which dated back to its last win over UNC on Sept. 10, 2005. The victory also broke Northern Colorado’s nine match regular-season winning streak and was the first sweep over the Bears on its home court since Sept. 20, 2018 in a loss to Idaho.

Montana State (1-0, 1-0) was efficient throughout the match hitting .250 from the floor. Six players posted five or more kills, led by senior Big Sky First-Team selection Hannah Scott with nine. Jourdain Klein, a redshirt freshman from Ennis, finished with eight kills, while Hailey Merkes and Kaycee O’Dell added seven and six, respectively.

“The beauty of running a 6-2 offense is its balance,” said MSU fourth-year head coach Daniel Jones. “It creates a lot of scoring opportunities and really puts a strain on the opponent. We used that to our advantage and our depth was outstanding. I thought we were very efficient, offensively.”

Northern Colorado (0-1, 0-1) jumped out early, before the Bobcats took its first lead at 6-5 following an ace by freshman Delaney Shearan. Tied at eight-all, MSU rattled off six consecutive points taking a 14-8 advantage on a Merkes ace. The Bobcats held the lead until UNC evened the set at 21-all. Montana State outscored the Bears 4-1 down the stretch winning the opening game on an ace via Kira Thomsen.

The second set featured 11 ties and five lead changes as the Bobcats held an edge for the first half of the contest. The Bobcats fought off three set points before a Scott kill and a UNC attack error gave MSU a 27-26 advantage. Montana State won the frame on another Scott kill.

“I thought one of the defining moments was our second set win,” Jones said. “To face three set points and still have the spirit and determination to come back and win gives our team tremendous confidence.”

The Bobcats continued its momentum getting out a 13-6 lead in the final set. MSU pushed the lead to 21-11 and cruised down the stretch taking the match on a kill by Klein. Montana State outhit Northern Colorado .200 to .000 in the third set.

Defensively, the Bobcats out-blocked the Bears 12-4 and held a slim 43-42 margin in digs. Klein and O’Dell led all players with a match-high eight blocks, while Libby Christensen and Thomsen posted double-digits with 13 and ten digs, respectively to anchor the Bobcat back row.

Thomsen also finished with a match-high four aces. Setters Allie Lynch and Shearan dished out 17 and 16 assists, respectively.

“We had over 400 days to prepare for this moment,” Jones said. “This team committed to get better and improve each day. They were extremely confident going into the match because of their preparation. Now, the challenge is to repeat what we did and at an even higher level on Monday. No doubt, UNC will be fired up to play us again.”

Northern Colorado was paced by reigning Big Sky Tournament MVP Kailey Jo Ince with ten kills as the Bobcat defense limited her to a .094 attack mark.

Montana State will face Northern Colorado on Monday night at 6 p.m. in Greeley, Colo.