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Montana State Bobcats volleyball wins 1, loses 2 in Arkansas

Posted: 8:13 PM, Aug 31, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-31 22:13:52-04
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(Editor's note: Montana State University media releases)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The Montana State volleyball team played in the University of Arkansas Classic on Friday and Saturday, winning one match and losing two. The Bobcats swept Arkansas Little Rock on Friday before being swept by Northwest State.

On Saturday, Montana State played the host Razorbacks, winning the first two sets but losing the final through to lose a five-set heartbreaker.

Montana State def. Arkansas Little Rock 25-11, 25-11, 25-21

The Montana State volleyball team opened its 2019 season sweeping Arkansas Little Rock 25-11, 25-11, 25-21 to open the University of Arkansas Classic, Friday morning in historic Barnhill Arena.

Montana State (1-0) took control of the match early, establishing itself at the service line. The Bobcats posted five aces in the opening set, while out-hitting Little Rock (0-1) .281 to .000. Junior Kelsie White gave MSU a 1-0 advantage finding the open court on a tip shot.

“Serving is where it started for us,” said third-year head coach Daniel Jones. “We were able to keep them under a lot of pressure. And, that’s the cornerstone of our defense and our transition offense.”

The Bobcats kept the momentum in the second set building a 21-7 advantage on another White kill. MSU closed out the set with on service ace via Libby Christensen.

“I think our preseason energy and focus is the highest I’ve experienced in my career at Montana State,” Jones said. “And, that was expressed by the team in the first two sets.”

The third set featured eight ties before the Bobcats broke away at 20-all following an Evi Wilson kill. White and Allie Lynch teamed for a block and Lynch added a kill to give MSU a three-point advantage. Two Trojan miscues gave MSU the match.

“We were very efficient today,” Jones said. “I thought Allie did a nice job distributing the ball. Our hitters did a nice job swinging high, swinging with range and using their toolbox.

“We got the block established midway through the match,” Jones continued. “We talked about tidying that up and working hard on pressing over low and taking away the cross court with our inside arm. I thought Kelsie and Emma (Pence) really did a nice job with that in the later part of the match.”

Freshman Kira Thomsen paced MSU with a match-high ten kills. The product of Parker, Colo. hit an impressive .346 from the floor and added six digs. Wilson finished with nine kills, eight digs and four blocks, while White ended with six kills, a .308 attack mark and a match-best five blocks.

Lynch, a native of Bozeman, dished out 29 assists, while adding six digs and three aces. Defensively, the Bobcats were led by Allyssa Rizzo and Hannah Scott with 18 and ten digs, respectively.

Little Rock was paced by Janae Thurston with seven kills.

Northwest State def. Montana State 25-22, 16-25, 16-25, 28-26, 15-13

Montana State had its chances with two match points in the fourth set but were unable to close the door as Northwestern State held off a late Bobcat charge to post a 25-22, 16-25, 16-25, 28-26, 15-13 victory over MSU, Friday night at the Arkansas Classic in Barnhill Arena.

Montana State (1-1) stormed back from a 17-12 deficit in set four with a 10-2 run taking a 22-19 lead. The Bobcats were up 2-1, after bouncing back from a first set defeat with two convincing victories in games two and three. An Evi Wilson kill gave MSU a 24-22 advantage, but the Demons held off two match points and eventually had three set points of their own before tying the match at two-all on a Hannah Brister kill.

In the deciding set, Northwestern State jumped out to an early 7-4 lead, before the Bobcats rattled off a 7-2 run taking an 11-9 margin on a tap down by freshman Emma Pence. The Demons responded with a 5-0 run. MSU fought off two match points on back-to-back kills by Hannah Scott and Kira Thomsen, but Brister ended the match with a kill off the block.

“It’s a growth moment for us,” said MSU head coach Daniel Jones. “We’re making mistakes in August that we can grow from and hopefully get better from. The challenge, though, is to step-up when the opportunity is there to learn.”

Montana State was led by Wilson with 19 kills, while Thomsen added 14 winners. Senior libero Allyssa Rizzo came up one dig shy of matching the MSU school-record with 37 digs but became just the fourth Bobcat in history to surpass the 1,500-dig plateau.

Wilson, a senior from Vancouver, Wash., notched a double-double adding 13 digs. Also posting a double-double was setter Allie Lynch with 48 assists and 16 digs.

“Northwestern State played a high-tempo, high-passioned game, not to dissimilar from our own,” Jones said. “They just had some players execute at critical moments and we fell down at some critical moments. The mark of any person is not whether you get knocked down, it’s how you get back up. I’m proud of this group for getting back up a couple of times. We just came up short a few times of seeing it through.”

Aside from the stellar play of seniors Wilson and Rizzo, the Bobcats received strong performances from freshmen Thomsen and Pence. Pence finished with eight kills and match-high six blocks.

“We have a new line up and whenever you put a new line up on the floor there’s going be those moments where they’re going to have to work through those challenges,” Jones stated. “I’m glad we’re learning these things now and we hope to grow from it. That was my message in the locker room. We’re never as good as we think we are, and we’re never as bad as we think we are. “

Northwestern State was paced by Brister with a match-best 24 digs.

Arkansas def. Montana State 20-25, 28-30, 25-15, 25-18, 15-13

Montana State got out to start it wanted and had Arkansas on its heels, before the Razorbacks rallied for a 20-25, 28-30, 25-15, 25-18, 15-13 victory over the Bobcats on Saturday morning in Barnhill Arena.

Montana State (1-2), which dropped its second straight five-set match, served notice in the opening set storming out to an early 5-1 advantage as freshman Kira Thomsen posted back-to-back aces. Arkansas (3-0) closed to within 16-15, but the Bobcats responded with four straight points capped by a block via Kelsie White and Hannah Scott. MSU took the first set as Scott recorded a kill off the block.

The second set mirrored the first as MSU jumped out to a five-point lead following an Allie Lynch ace. The Bobcats held the lead until the Razorbacks tied the score at 19-all. The two teams traded points and MSU held five set points before a bad Arkansas set gave the Bobcats a 2-0 advantage.

Arkansas turned the table in sets three and four holding a 33 to 13 advantage in kills, while hitting .313 and holding the Bobcats to just .083.

In the deciding game, Montana State held an 8-6 advantage on a Scott kill. The set was tied four times down the stretch before the Razorbacks took a 13-11 lead. MSU fought back to even the stanza at 13-all on an Evi Wilson kill and an Arkansas hitting error. Two Montana State miscues halted MSU’s upset bid at 15-13 against its lone Power Five opponent this season.

“I’m extremely proud of this group,” said MSU third-year head coach Daniel Jones. “From the first person to the last person they’re invested and committed to what we’re doing. They’re selfless and it’s just such a fun group to coach right now. They have a sense for how good they are, and I think with just a couple of technical and tactical adjustments we’ll see how good they can be. We challenged them to really develop a sense of who they can be and to develop that confidence that they can have that killer instinct in those big moments.”

Scott paced MSU offensively with a team-high 17 kills, while hitting .406 from the field. Lynch dished out 39 assists and added five digs, four blocks and three aces. Defensively, libero Allyssa Rizzo notched a match-high 26 digs, while freshman Emma Pence guided the Bobcats at the net with a match-best six blocks.

“Anytime we can go out against a big, physical team from the Big 10, the Pac-12, the SEC or whatever Power Five conference it is we feel we can match-up with them pretty well,” Jones said. “It’s fun to get tested. And, that’s why we play this game- to see who we are and to see what we’re made of.”

Arkansas was led by Jillian Gillen with 26 kills and 13 digs.

For their efforts, Rizzo and Scott were named to the Arkansas Classic all-tournament team.

Montana State plays at the University of Chicago Loyola tournament next weekend.