Wildcats outlast Grizzlies in five sets
Sept. 28, 2012
The Wildcats were who the Grizzlies thought they were. Plus something they hadn't been, and it allowed Weber State to pick up its first Big Sky Conference victory of the season in five sets over Montana at the West Auxiliary Gym in Missoula Friday night.
In a disjointed match that largely lacked any flow, the Wildcats improved to 1-4 in league matches, 7-9 overall, with a 25-27, 25-16, 25-21, 17-25, 15-13 victory. The loss dropped Montana to 1-4 in Big Sky play, 3-11 overall.
Weber State had 15 more kills than Montana, served up nine aces and had a 15-9 advantage in blocks. That was all expected.
"I said before the weekend that they were going to block balls, they were going to serve tough, and they were going to be in your face," UM coach Jerry Wagner said.
"And tonight they added something to their game that we weren't expecting. They added some ball-handling. They passed better than I expected, and they out-dug us. We got out-ball-handled, plain and simple."
That passing allowed junior outside hitter Piper Wahlin to go wild. She entered the match with 28 kills on the season, an average of just over a half a kill per set. Friday she had 18 kills on .255 hitting.
Rebecca Fuchs had 13 kills, though they came on negative hitting, and Audrey Biggs added 12. Biggs' final two kills were the match's final two points.
The aggressive Wildcats accumulate plenty of errors every match -- Friday they had 36 attack errors and a dozen service errors -- and that allowed Montana to send the match to a fifth set, and it ended up being the tightest set of the night.
Montana went up 9-7 when junior Janele Vogt, a transfer from North Idaho College, got her first kill in a Montana uniform. Weber State answered with five straight points, the last two coming on the team's final two service aces of the match to go up 12-9.
Junior Kayla Reno ended the Wildcats' run with her team-high 15th kill of the match.
Following a timeout, Weber went to Biggs, who hit .500 on the night, and her kill made it 14-13. Laurel Bodily's serve on match point forced Montana into passing the Wildcats a free ball, and WSU went back to Biggs for the decisive kill.
Reno totaled her 15 kills on .173 hitting and matched her season high with four blocks, and Bray had another special performance in half a season of them, with 11 kills on .348 hitting and a team-high five blocks.
Schile totaled 11 kills, seven digs and three blocks, junior setter Kortney James had her fifth double-double of the season with 43 assists and a team-high 14 digs, and juniors Megan Murphey and Samantha Maas combined for 24 digs.
Montana was without the services of senior outside hitter Paige Branstiter and redshirt freshman middle blocker Capri Richardson, both out with injuries. That pushed freshman Gabby Crowell and sophomore Natalie Jones into starting positions and roles that essentially had no backups.
The pair played all five sets and hit .000 with two blocks.
The Wildcats had five of their 12 service errors in the match in the opening set, and that stymied their comeback from a seven-point deficit.
Weber trailed 17-10 but rallied to tie the set at 21-21. The Wildcats fought off two set points by Montana, then allowed the Grizzlies to go up 26-25 on a service error. Bray, who had two of Montana's three service aces in the match, finished the set with an ace.
WSU led almost all of sets two and three. Montana bounced back to hit .385 in the fourth set and side out on 16 of 18 opportunities.
"Their serving lost them the first set, but their serving is what won them the match," Wagner said. "It turned out to be a pretty good strategy.
"They don't mind making a lot of errors, and I think we helped them out a number of times as well."
Montana will host Idaho State (10-4, 4-1 BSC) Saturday at 7 p.m. at the West Auxiliary Gym. The Bengals had their nine-match winning streak snapped Friday with a 3-2 (25-21, 25-23, 21-25, 22-25, 15-12) loss at Montana State.
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