Griz unable to hold lead in 3-1 loss to Vikings
Oct. 27, 2012
Montana won the opening set, but Portland State rallied to win the next three as the Vikings remained atop the Big Sky Conference standings with a 21-25, 25-20, 25-22, 25-18 victory over the Griz volleyball team Saturday night at Portland, Ore.
Montana (6-17, 4-10 BSC), which lost at Eastern Washington in three sets Thursday night, went 0-2 on the EWU-PSU road trip for the 12th straight season.
The loss also ended any realistic shot the Grizzlies had of remaining in the hunt for the six-team Big Sky Conference tournament. Montana is now alone in ninth place, three games out of sixth with just six matches remaining in the regular season.
Last week Montana dropped a 3-0 decision at home to North Dakota and bounced back the next night to upset Northern Colorado 3-1.
After losing handily to the Eagles, who have just two wins on the season, on Thursday in three sets, the Grizzlies looked like they were going to have a repeat performance a week later.
Portland State had no answer early for Montana's middle-blocker combination of juniors Brooke Bray and Janele Vogt. The pair had 11 of the Grizzlies' 17 first-set kills on .524 hitting and Montana hit .364 in the opening set, with 17 kills and just one error on 44 swings.
Montana jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the second set, but the Vikings showed for the rest of the match why they've won 13 of their last 14 matches and now 18 straight against the Grizzlies.
Montana, which was playing without the services of starting libero junior Megan Murphey, who was injured in Thursday's loss, hit just .069 over the final three sets after its hot start, and Portland State had 49 kills over those three sets compared to the Grizzlies' 26.
Still, Montana responded well after Thursday's lackluster effort and pushed the league-leading Vikings through the first three sets.
"The team did a great job of rebounding (from Thursday's loss) and making the necessary adjustments to cover for a fallen teammate," UM coach Jerry Wagner said.
"I was very happy with the way we executed and were able to put together a match that was closer than the score indicated. With the number of personnel changes that needed to take place, I can't fault the effort one bit."
Bray finished with 16 kills on .333 hitting with seven blocks, but she did not get much offensive support from her teammates. Vogt was limited to one kill over the final three sets, and Montana's four outside hitters combined for 18 kills on .063 hitting.
Junior Samantha Maas filled in at libero for the injured Murphey and had 23 digs, her second-best total of the season. Freshman Allyson Barry also played an expanded defensive role -- essentially taking over Maas' previous duties -- and had a season-high 10 digs.
Montana's game plan was to harass Portland State's outside-hitting tandem of Jaklyn Wheeler and Megan Ellis at the net and try to defend PSU's middles by the dig.
The plan worked on the left side. Wheeler, who had 26 kills in the Vikings' 3-2 win at Missoula last month, and Ellis combined for 31 kills but also totaled 19 errors and hit just .114. Most of that was the Grizzlies' effort on the block, which resulted in a 14-7 advantage.
Limited on the left side, the Vikings' looked to the right and found success, partly because of the loss of Murphey and her back-row presence. It was there that Aubrey Mitchell finished with 18 kills on .485 hitting.
"There were some victories in this defeat," Wagner said. "We out-blocked them 2-to-1, and that we had more digs tells me were hustling all night.
"The difference was that we couldn't quite handle the ball consistently enough at the level we needed to over the course of the match."
Montana will be back on the road next weekend with matches at second-place Idaho State (18-5, 12-2 BSC) and 10th-place Weber State (8-17, 2-12 BSC).
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