Posted: Nov 19, 2012 9:32 PM by Ted Dawson
Updated: Nov 19, 2012 10:47 PM
Sarah Horton's service ace proved to be the shot heard around Bozeman for the first time since 2005 as the Montana State volleyball squad posted a 25-22, 23-25, 25-18, 28-26 victory over intrastate rival Montana, Monday night in the West Auxiliary Gym.
The win gives Montana State the sixth and final spot in next week's Big Sky Conference tournament. It will be MSU's first trip to the league dance since Miya Malauulu led the Bobcats to the postseason seven years ago.
Montana State (15-13, 9-11) had been fighting its own demons over the past three weeks to secure a spot in the Big Sky tournament, coming up just short in its effort. Against Montana (6-23, 4-16), the Bobcats again battled significant deficits, but fought back in the opening and final set to notch the 3-1 victory.
"It was great to finally have things bounce our way," said first-year MSU head coach Kyle Weindel. "We have been playing very well the past three weeks and it's nice to finally see the hard work payoff."
Montana used a 6-0 run in the opening set to take an early 15-9 advantage. Montana State responded with an 11-3 run of their own to go up 20-18 sparked by three Sarah Horton kills. With the set knotted at 21-all, another Horton kill and a Jennifer Lundquist ace gave MSU a 23-21 lead. Montana closed to within 23-22, but the Bobcats used a Macy Page kill and a Grizzly hitting error to secure the come-from-behind win.
In the second set, Montana got out to a 14-4 advantage, before the Bobcats rallied to even the set at 16-all following a 12-2 run. With the game tied at 19-all, the Grizzlies rattled off two points and went on for the win via a Paige Branstiter kill.
Following intermission it was all Bobcats as MSU out-hit UM .424 to .200 to take a 2-1 match lead.
The final stanza was reminiscent of the first as Montana held a 17-11 cushion following a Kayla Reno ace, and it looked as if the Grizzlies would force a fifth set.
However, the Bobcats dug-down with an 8-2 run to even the set at 19-all on an Eli Svisco kill. Montana staved off the MSU rally with two straight points to take a 21-19 lead. Again, MSU answered to even the score at 21-all on a Taylar Barney kill. The set was tied at 22, 23 and 24 and a Branstiter kill gave the Grizzlies set point at 25-24. A Horton winner evened the game at 25-all and a Montana hitting error gave MSU its first match point at 26-25. A Montana State hitting error on the next play once again tied the score at 26-all. The Bobcats then closed out the match on a Horton kill and ace.
"I knew we would be able to string together some runs, so we were careful in not burning timeouts," Weindel said. "I thought we did an outstanding job defensively and Jennifer Lundquist did a nice job getting our hitters into a position to score.
"We knew what was at stake and we stayed aggressive and got the kills we needed," Weindel said.
Horton paced Montana State with a match-high 21 kills, while hitting .267 from the field and adding eight digs. Page also hit double-figures with 15 kills. Middle blockers Natalee Godfrey and Barney combined for 17 kills and 11 blocks, while freshmen outside hitter Svisco chipped in nine kills, 15 digs and four blocks. Junior libero Nicole Baker had 18 digs, while Lundquist dished out 55 assists and added a team-high 19 digs.
"I'm happy for our seniors, especially Macy (Page) who has been in the program five years," Weindel said. "It's been a long time coming, and to be potentially playing in their last match, and to endure coming from behind to win at Montana and move on to the Big Sky Conference tournament, is a nice memory to make."
Montana State will be the No. 6 seed and will face No. 3 Northern Arizona (23-6, 15-5) in quarterfinal action on Friday morning in Greeley, Colorado.