Montana improved to 11-1 against Montana State under Jerry Wagner
Nov. 4, 2011
Down two sets to one and trailing 19-14 in the fourth set, the Montana volleyball team rallied for a 25-18, 16-25, 22-25, 25-21, 15-8 victory over Montana State Friday night at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula.
With the win the Grizzlies (9-12, 6-7 BSC) moved up to sixth place in the Big Sky Conference standings and kept alive their chances to advance to the Big Sky's four-team postseason tournament later this month.
The victory also improved Montana's mark against Montana State to 11-1 under sixth-year head coach Jerry Wagner.
The Bobcats (3-21, 2-11 BSC), who entered the match with just three victories on the season, almost ended the Grizzlies' postseason hopes.
After Montana hit .355 in the opening set on its way to a decisive win, Montana State turned the tables in the next two sets. The Bobcats hit a modest .167, but they held the Grizzlies to .033 hitting.
MSU was on the brink of victory when a Chelsea Oemcke kill and a Montana attack error put Montana State up 19-14 late in the fourth set and forced Wagner to use a desperation timeout.
"(Montana State) was passing the ball well and running something we had no answer for," he said. "When we came to the huddle, I just said, `Guys, it's going to take a lot of courage to come back, because they have everything going. We need to get them off balance.'
"That was pretty much it for the entire huddle."
Sophomore Kortney James started the comeback with a kill from her setter position. Sophomore Megan Murphey followed with a service ace that in retrospect really triggered everything, because it unnerved an opponent that had been confidently rolling along to that point.
A kill by sophomore Brooke Bray made it 19-17 and forced a Montana State timeout.
Senior Amy Roberts and Bray kept the rally going with kills that tied the match at 19.
Montana State went to Sarah Horton for a kill to break Montana's run of points, but when the Bobcats went to Horton a second straight time, Bray and James were there for the assisted block.
Freshman Kelsey Schile had back-to-back kills to make it 22-20, and the Grizzlies would close out the set by outscoring the Bobcats 11-2.
Montana hit .364 in the fifth set, with nine kills and just one error on 22 swings, and took control after some early lead changes.
"We went back and served the right area," Wagner said about the start of the fourth-set comeback after his timeout. "They finally didn't pass the ball well, and we saw that we could get some points if we could do that.
"We served better the rest of the match, and I thought that really turned the tide in our favor. We finally got them to pass the ball poorly, and that was the crack in their armor that turned it around."
Montana won its fourth five-set match of the season behind a balanced offense that featured five players recording double-figure kills.
Bray finished with 12 kills on .458 hitting and five blocks, and senior Brittany Quick had 10 kills on .364 hitting and six blocks.
Sophomore Kayla Reno led both teams with 15 kills, and she added a career-high six blocks.
Senior Amy Roberts had a career-high 24 digs, Murphey finished with 23 digs, her fourth straight match with 20-plus digs, James had 48 assists, and Schile totaled 11 kills on .231 hitting with 13 digs and three blocks.
Alex Penewell had 12 kills on .241 hitting and four blocks to lead Montana State.
Montana will face another must-win match next Saturday when the Grizzlies meet fourth-place Sacramento State (14-12, 7-4 BSC) at 2 p.m. (MT) at Sacramento, Calif.
Montana won the first meeting between the teams in Missoula, 3-1.
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