Griz hold block party, break into win column
Sept. 1, 2012
The Montana volleyball team collected its first win of the season in impressive fashion Saturday evening at the San Diego State Holiday Inn Mission Valley Aztec Challenge, sweeping Sacred Heart in straight sets, 25-22, 25-14, 25-13.
With the win the Grizzlies (1-5) finished third at the four-team tournament while handing the Pioneers (1-5) their fifth consecutive loss.
Montana won the match with its defensive effort at the net. The Grizzlies had just two more kills than Sacred Heart, but it was their record-breaking blocking performance that was the story.
Montana had 23.0 team blocks, the most in program history for a three-set match. It was also the fourth most in program history, regardless of the number of sets, and the most in any match since 1994.
"Sacred Heart is predictable and they take good swings at the ball," UM coach Jerry Wagner explained. "But our serving put them on their heels and took them way out of system, and our block was in position all night to take advantage of that, and our timing was on."
Montana set the tone for the match early. The Grizzlies had 10.0 of their 23.0 team blocks in the opening set, with Bray totaling eight and Schile seven.
Montana hit only .088 in the first-set win, but it was enough to finish off the three-point win because the Grizzlies' domination at the net limited the Pioneers to .000 hitting.
And that would be their best percentage of the match. Sacred Heart hit -.030 in the second set and -.079 in the third to finish at -.034.
It was the first time Montana has defended a team into a negative hitting percentage since the 2000 season, when Gonzaga hit -.012.
Offensively Montana got 12 kills on .314 hitting from junior Kayla Reno and nine kills on .529 hitting from Bray. That was almost all the Grizzlies needed.
"We just got after it tonight, and everything came around. Finally. I feel really good about our effort," Wagner added. "I'm proud that the tough competition we've faced up to this point has made us hungry.
"This gives us something going into our own tournament next weekend, and that means a lot."
Her numbers were modest, but the match concluded a breakout day for freshman outside hitter Gabby Crowell. She had three kills and one error on seven swings (.286), and she had the team's two service aces and a number of the serves that had Sacred Heart scrambling.
After sitting out the opening set, the jump-serving Crowell came in and twice served three straight points in the second set. She served another three straight points early in the third set and then seven later in the set as Montana pulled away.
"Gabby's serving definitely led to a lot of predictable situations for us to block," Wagner said. "Her serving stood out, and the people that followed her continued that aggressiveness. That serving led us to block as well as we did."
Montana will play at home for the first time next weekend when the Grizzlies host the Best Western Grant Creek Inn Invitational Friday and Saturday at the West Auxiliary Gym. Montana will host Towson, Furman and Texas Tech.
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