Sept. 3, 2011
Montana hit .215 and four players finished with double-figure kills as the Griz volleyball team evened its record at 2-2 with a five-set victory over Southern Utah Saturday morning at the North Dakota Classic at Grand Forks.
Employing a 5-1 offense for the first time this season, Montana jumped out to 25-21 and 25-17 wins in the first two sets while hitting .282.
Southern Utah rallied to take sets three and four, 25-16 and 25-23.
Montana got three straight kills from senior Brittany Quick and sophomore Kayla Reno to turn a 4-4 tie into a 7-4 lead in the fifth set, and the Grizzlies led by at least two the rest of the way on their way to a 15-11 win.
The win came after a quick turnaround from Friday night's 3-0 loss to North Dakota, a match in which Montana hit -.011.
"I'm really happy with this performance today and the way we fought. We worked as hard as we could for every point," sixth-year coach Jerry Wagner said.
"We worked our way out of some rough patches today. We were much more purposeful, much more determined, in those situations than we were last night."
After using a 6-2 offense for the season's first three matches - with sophomore Kortney James and freshman Kelsey Schile splitting setter duties - Wagner opted to go strictly with James in a 5-1 system Saturday.
The move paid immediate dividends. The Grizzlies never trailed in the first two sets - jumping out to 4-1 leads in both - while hitting .278 and .286.
After racking up 29 kills through the first two sets, Montana had just seven in set three, along with seven errors for a .000 hitting percentage.
The Grizzlies appeared to have put the third set behind them and had a commanding 20-14 lead in the fourth set, but the Thunderbirds slowly came back.
Four Southern Utah kills and three Montana attack errors brought the Thunderbirds within one, 22-21.
Quick answered with a kill to put the Griz back up two, 23-21, but an Analaine Mailoto kill made it 23-22, and Montana went bad set, attack error, attack error to turn it into a five-set match.
With the fifth set's score tied 4-4, kills came from Quick and Reno then Quick again to put Montana up 7-4.
All five of Montana's hitters - Quick in the middle, Reno on the left, junior Paige Branstiter on the left, sophomore Brooke Bray in the middle and Schile on the right - had kills down the stretch to give the Grizzlies the win.
After hitting -.176 against the Fighting Sioux Friday, with just one kill and four errors on 17 swings, Reno was back Saturday morning, leading both teams with 16 kills on .275 hitting.
Branstiter, who played left side for senior Amy Roberts, finished with 11 kills on .258 hitting and added three blocks.
Quick and Schile both had 10 kills. Quick added a team-high four blocks, Schile's kills came on .233 hitting.
Playing in the 5-1 system she ran last season as a true freshman, James was dominant from her setter position. She totaled 43 assists and a team-high 14 digs but was also an offensive weapon with eight kills on just 10 attacks.
Roberts, who entered the match struggling with a negative hitting percentage for the season, played in the back row only. She had nine digs and five of Montana's eight service aces.
Freshman libero Kaitlyn Molloy had 12 digs and a pair of service aces.
Mailoto led Southern Utah with 15 kills on .243 hitting.
Montana will face Wisconsin-Green Bay (2-3) Saturday at 4 p.m. (MT) for second place at the tournament. The Phoenix beat Southern Utah in straight sets Friday and fell to North Dakota 3-0 in the match that followed Montana's Saturday morning match.
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