BUTTE – The Montana Tech volleyball did what it needed to improve to 2-0 in Frontier Conference play.
Coming off of a marathon match in its conference-opening win over Carroll College on Thursday, the Orediggers made quick work of Lewis-Clark State by beating the Warriors, 25-19, 25-18, 25-18, Saturday afternoon at the HPER Complex.
Masha Korol led the Orediggers with 11 kills and Gena McMillan added 10.
The Orediggers (2-0 in conference, 9-4 overall) were extremely efficient in their latest triumph, which was something that did not go unnoticed by Tech head coach Brian Solomon.
“It’s hard to keep everyone with a good rhythm but we had 42 kills on 81 swings,” Solomon said. “That’s a huge number. When you’re pushing 50 percent of your attempts and kills, that’s great.”
Korol turned in an impressive success rate by connecting on 42.9 percent of her kill attempts. Haley Druyvestein had five kills on seven attempts for a 57.1 percent clip but Gena McMillan had her best outing of the season by barely missing the 70-percent mark.
“That’s as good a match as I’ve seen her play, and nothing was flashy,” Solomon said of McMillan. “She just played really smart. She hit .692 and she’s an outside (hitter). That’s not bad at all.
McMillan finished the match with 10 kills on 13 kill attempts.
“This was one of my better games,” said McMillan, a native of California. “I didn’t lead the team in errors, so that was good.”
The Warriors arrived in Butte prepared to give the Orediggers a battle and held a slim lead as the first set neared its halfway mark but Tech went on a quick spurt, helped by strong serving from Sabrina Hopcroft to turn the set in its favor.
A 9-2 run turned an 11-8 LCS lead into a 17-13 Tech advantage. The Orediggers pulled away from there to win the opener.
The second set wasn’t much of a contest, as the Orediggers scored the first four points and were never really threatened.
Lewis-Clark coach LaToya Harris-Alexander pulled her team off of the court after the second set and held a much-needed conference with her players in an adjacent hallway.
Whatever she said worked but only to a point.
The teams locked themselves into a close third set with neither able to pull away from the other.
Tech held a 3-1 lead early in the set but the score was tied at 6 a few moments later. The teams inched their way up the scoreboard from there, with neither leading by more than a point, until a hitting error by the Orediggers gave the Warriors a 17-15 lead.
Solomon called a time out at that and obviously said what needed to be said.
The Orediggers came back to the court and scored eight straight points to put the match out of reach.
“We had a couple of bad breaks and I thought Lewis and Clark was playing really, really well,” Solomon explained. “We were right with them so we just needed to be patient. We made a few little adjustments on the tail end there.”
Despite losing some of their best players from a year ago, the Orediggers are continuing to prove that they have the skills needed to return to the NAIA Tournament this year.
Solomon might become the envy of other coaches in the conference as he tries to figure out how to utilize that talent that fills his roster.
MSU-NORTHERN 3, MONTANA WESTERN 2
Cassie Krueger had a match-high 23 kills and Butte High grad Hannah Amtmann added 23 digs to pace the MSU-Northern volleyball team to a come-from-behind, 25-20, 21-25, 14-25, 25-23, 15-7 win over Montana Western, Saturday afternoon in Havre.
The Bulldogs, who slipped to 1-1 in conference play, looked at the setback as missed opportunity after winning two of the first three sets. But they were unable to carry the momentum from an 11-point victory in the third set into the fourth.
Western got 15 kills from Tessa Miller and 10 apiece from Kelsey Potter and Kylie McCree. Miller also led the Bulldogs with a pair of blocks. McKenna Fink had 44 of Western’s 49 assists.
“Sometimes it’s a challenge to keep a rhythm for all of them,” he explained.
The players can see it as well.
“A lot of the times I feel like we can honestly set whoever and whenever, and that’s really good,” McMillan added. “Our setters are really good about knowing when our hitters are on and when they’re not. I would say that we can be pretty versatile.
“We can be loads better. We just need to keep coming together in every practice and do what we’ve got to do every day. If we can continue to do that, I think that we can really put some teams in a lot of bad places.”