Griz drop finale to tournament champion Pacific
Aug. 25, 2012
It was not a win, but it at least will make the bus trip home from Moscow to Missoula more enjoyable. Montana lost its third and final match of the Idaho Nike Invitational Saturday evening, pushing tournament champion Pacific to five sets before losing 25-19, 25-21, 20-25, 15-25, 8-15.
The Grizzlies, who were not favored in any of their matches, went 0-3 to open the season but played better and better volleyball as the weekend progressed.
Saturday they had Pacific, a team that dispatched Washington State in three quick sets earlier in the day, on the ropes before the fatigue from playing two matches in a short window of time took its toll.
Montana hit .316 and .275 while winning the opening two sets, then .026, .026 and .000 down the stretch.
"We were staying active, we were communicating, we were bouncing back from bad plays, but in the end playing back-to-back matches caught up with us," UM coach Jerry Wagner said.
"I'm extremely happy with the effort we put forth in this match. We just didn't have the amount of energy we were going to need to beat a good team."
Montana had its two best hitting performances of the tournament in the opening two sets, led by sophomore Kelsey Schile's work on the right side.
Schile had 13 total kills in Montana's first two tournament matches. She had 12 kills on .391 hitting in Saturday's first two sets against Pacific, going blow for blow with the Tigers' Gabby Cowden, who had 11 kills on .647 hitting through two.
While Montana's hitters wore out as the match played out, Cowden did not. She finished with 26 kills on the night, hitting .356.
Given Pacific's fresher legs from playing a three-set match Saturday morning compared to Montana's four-setter against Idaho earlier Saturday afternoon, the Grizzlies likely needed to end the match in a sweep to give themselves a shot at the victory, and they nearly did.
Tied at 14 midway through the third set, Montana got consecutive points on a block by senior Paige Branstiter and junior Brooke Bray, then a kill from Bray to go up 16-14 and force a Pacific timeout.
The Tigers scored nine of the next 10 points out of the break and were mostly in control the rest of the match.
Montana did hold an 11-9 lead in the fourth set, but another big run, this one 11-1, put the set out of reach, and Pacific opened the fifth set by building a 9-2 lead.
"We're spent," Wagner said. "To have this team's number for the better part of three sets means we're getting closer. It's unfortunate we go home without any reward for better and better play."
The Grizzlies had their best offensive balance of the tournament against Pacific. Schile and junior Kayla Reno, who was Montana's selection to the all-tournament team, both finished with 15 kills, and Branstiter added 13. Best of all: They all hit .140 or better. Not the .200 Wagner wants from his outside hitters, but it was an improvement from the team's first two matches.
They also all blocked well, and two-thirds of them were factors in the back row. Branstiter finished with a career-high six blocks, while Reno had three and Schile two.
Junior Sam Maas played the back row for Branstiter and led both teams with 25 digs. Reno added 19 and Schile 13.
Bray had her third solid match of the tournament in the middle. She finished with seven kills and eight blocks, but her running mates in the middle left plenty of reason for alarm.
Montana will play another three-match tournament next weekend at San Diego State. The Grizzlies will face Utah State Friday and the host Aztecs and Sacred Heart Saturday.
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