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Montana State volleyball falls to Northern Arizona in five-set thriller

Emma Pence (12) and Hannah Scott (16) blocking
Posted at 9:06 PM, Feb 06, 2021

(Editor's Note: Montana State Press Release)

BOZEMAN -- Northern Arizona made the plays it needed down the stretch to hand Montana State a 21-25, 26-24, 25-17, 23-25, 15-12 setback in the Bobcats home opener in Shroyer Gym on Saturday night.

Northern Arizona (4-1, 4-1) broke away from 12-all in the fifth set with back-to-back kills by Taylor Jacobsen and Lyla Hollis and won the match as a Montana State (1-2, 1-2) attack sailed long. The five-set match was the third consecutive against the Lumberjacks as both matches went the distance a year ago.

“It was a real momentum match,” said MSU fourth-year head coach Daniel Jones. “We came out strong in that first set and flowed into the second set and had at least one set point. Once Northern Arizona got the momentum, they finished out the second and rolled through the third.

“We really fought hard in fourth to fight back,” Jones added. “And, at 12-all in the fifth set it’s a race to three and they did a real nice job, and we made some errors that hurt us.”

The Bobcats jumped out early in the opening set taking a 7-2 lead on a Hannah Scott kill. The set was tied four times midway through the frame before MSU opened a 22-17 advantage on an ace by Lexi Goroski. The Bobcats close out the set on a kill via Kira Thomsen.

MSU held a 24-23 edge late in the second set, before NAU evened the match with three straight points taking the set on a service ace. The Lumberjacks cruised in the third game outhitting the Bobcats .300 to .067.

The fourth set featured five ties and two lead changes. Montana State held a 20-15 lead on a Scott kill, but Northern Arizona responded to close to within 24-23 on a kill of a Bobcat overpass. MSU forced a fifth and deciding set following a NAU service error.

Both teams traded points in the fifth set, as the game was tied 10 times before NAU made its final move late for the match victory.

“Our errors came at critical times and that was the frustrating part,” Jones said. “Hitting .208 is certainly not a bad mark, but sometimes when the game gets fast, we have to respond a little bit quicker.”

The Bobcats were led by its middle blocking tandem of Susanna Sovde and Emma Pence. Playing in her first match of the season, Sovde recorded a career-high 11 kills, while posting a .625 attack mark and five blocks. Pence finished with 11 kills, a .529 attack mark and five blocks.

“I’m super proud of our middles’ offensive output,” Jones said. “To win, we need to go through our middles, but that only happens when we pass well, and we didn’t pass at a consistent rate throughout the five sets.”

Also in double-digit kills for MSU was Hailey Merkes with 11. Setters Delaney Shearan and Allie Lynch dished out 23 and 22 assists, respectively. Defensively, the Bobcat were paced by Scott and Thomsen with 10 digs, apiece.

Jacobsen guided NAU with a match-high 26 kills, while adding 12 digs.

MSU and Northern Arizona will play on Sunday at 2 p.m. in Shroyer Gym.