Towson, Furman win opening-day matches
Towson and Furman were both winners on the opening day of the Best Western Grant Creek Inn Invitational Friday at Montana's West Auxiliary Gym.
In the day's opening match, Towson ran its record to 7-2 with an impressive 25-17, 28-26, 25-22 win over previously unbeaten Texas Tech (8-1).
In that late match, Furman improved to 8-1 with a 25-21, 25-16, 20-25, 25-17 victory over Montana (1-6).
Senior outside hitter Paige Branstiter had a career night for the Grizzlies, finishing with a career-high 19 kills on career-best .417 hitting.
Junior outside hitter Kayla Reno totaled 12 kills and junior middle blocker Brooke Bray had eight kills on .300 hitting while adding a team-high five blocks, but the rest of the team contributed just 10 kills.
Furman, which hit .285, had four players with double-figure kills. Natalie Braun finished with 21, Christina Dorismond had 14 kills on .433 hitting and Caroline Adams totaled 13 kills on .522 hitting.
Montana outblocked the Paladins, 11-8, and hit better than .200 for the third time in four matches, but the Grizzlies could not match Furman's offensive firepower. The Paladins had 16 more kills than Montana.
"We're blocking with the teams we're playing, and Paige had a breakout night, but we were a two-dimensional team tonight," UM coach Jerry Wagner said in reference to Reno (54) and Branstiter (36) taking 90 of the team's 147 swings.
"We're not getting contributions from all five hitters, and you can't beat good teams with that approach. Furman was very consistent tonight in what they were trying to do, and we weren't."
Furman used a three-point run to break away from a 13-13 deadlock in the opening set, and the Paladins scored eight straight points late in the second set to pull away from what had been a back-and-forth battle with eight ties.
Sparked by Branstiter, Montana led from the opening points in the third set. Branstiter had seven of her 19 kills in the set and hit .778, with no errors on nine swings. Reno also had five of her 12 kills in the third set, as the Grizzlies hit .394.
Furman returned to its earlier form in handily winning set four. The Paladins hit .429 in the set, with 16 kills and just a single attack error.
Junior Sam Maas was solid in the back row, leading Montana with 18 digs. Junior Megan Murphey added 11.
The challenge will not slacken any Saturday. Montana will face a tremendous Towson team at noon and one-loss Texas Tech at 7 p.m.
"This is a very good tournament field, so we're going to be more than battle-tested after this tournament concludes," Wagner said.
"All three teams we'll be facing are capable of taking advantage of any inconsistences you present them."
Furman will face Texas Tech in Saturday's first match at 10 a.m. Towson and Furman meet at 4:30 p.m. in what Friday hinted will be the de facto tournament championship match.
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