Griz overcome Bobcats in four sets
Oct. 21, 2013
Any fears Montana volleyball coach Jerry Wagner harbored about Kayla Reno's mental state going into Monday night's matchup against Montana State, which came just hours after Reno had been named Big Sky Conference Player of the Week for the first time in her career, turned out to be completely unfounded.
Three days after overwhelming Sacramento State with 17 kills on .486 hitting, Reno was back at it. The senior outside hitter had 19 kills on .417 hitting to lead Montana to a 3-1 victory over the Bobcats Monday night at the West Auxiliary Gym, 23-25, 25-22, 25-19, 25-19.
The win puts the Grizzlies (9-10, 6-4 BSC) two games over .500 at the midway point of the Big Sky schedule, just a game behind 7-3 Northern Arizona and Idaho State, which are tied for third behind one-loss North Dakota and two-loss Portland State.
While Reno got out to a head start on the rest of the league on next week's player of the week award, if Monday's match was any indication, she'll have plenty of competition from junior teammate Kelsey Schile.
The junior right-side hitter had a season-high 17 kills on .344 hitting, but she was even more of a factor on defensive. Schile had eight blocks, more than half of them coming against Montana State freshman Kennadie Clute, the Big Sky Conference leader in kills.
Clute finished the match with 18 kills, but with Schile and UM's middle blockers harassing her, she also had 14 attack errors and hit just .077.
Montana was the better team Monday night for all but nine points, and they cost the Grizzlies the opening set.
Montana led 10-7 when a Clute kill gave teammate Nicole Baker the serve, and the senior libero proceeded to score nine straight points from the service line, four of them aces at Reno's expense.
The run of serves flipped the set and gave Montana State a 17-10 lead. Montana would pull within a point four different times down the stretch, but their big lead sparked the Bobcats to a 25-23 win, their only victory of the night.
Montana held Montana State to .085 hitting over the match's final three sets, and the Grizzlies doubled the Bobcats on the block for the match and hit .226 to MSU's .128.
"Except for one stretch, I can't fault a single thing we did tonight," UM coach Jerry Wagner said. "We played solid all the way up to that point, and after we finally got a sideout (on Baker's serve), we played solid the rest of the night.
"I'm excited about how hard we're playing and how every area is showing up the way it is. The formula was there. We out-blocked a team, out-dug a team, out-served a team and out-hit a team."
Clute had six kills on .308 hitting in Montana State's first-set win, and Montana had just three blocks, but it all changed from there. Clute hit .000 the final three sets as the Grizzlies' defensive game plan did its work and resulted in 13 more blocks.
But nobody was more of a force at the net than Schile. "I really like the way Kelsey's been playing," Wagner said. "She's been playing very well for a month now.
"Her biggest impact tonight was her ability, along with our middles, to shut down their best player and eventually turn that matchup in our favor. It was our best blocker on their best hitter.
It was only an added bonus that she excelled offensively, and her presence gave Montana a lethal one-two punch.
"Kelsey's impact was felt blocking-wise, and certainly she and Kayla carried the offensive load tonight," Wagner said. "The passing allowed that to happen, the setting allowed that to happen, and our middles drawing blockers to them allowed us to be very good all night."
Bray and Jones totaled 10 kills in the middle, and senior setter Kortney James added five kills on .375 hitting to go along with 43 assists.
The win gives Montana, which plays later this week at league leader North Dakota and Northern Colorado, five wins in its last seven matches, and the Grizzlies' wins Friday at Sacramento State and Monday against Montana State give them their first Big Sky sweep of the season.
"You never know when you're going to get your team playing at its best," Wagner said. "You try to develop that in your preseason, but we weren't all the way locked into our groove going into our league schedule.
"I don't know that I'm disappointed in any of our losses, because we've been learning from them. Now maybe it's time for us to be at that next level going into the second half."
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