Griz outlast Bengals for fifth straight home win
Nov. 18, 2011
For two teams already eliminated from the Big Sky Conference tournament, Montana and Idaho State played a match deserving of the postseason Friday night at the West Auxiliary Gym. After two hours and 11 minutes, the Grizzlies finally came away with a 25-16, 22-25, 25-23, 29-31, 15-13 victory, their fifth straight win at home.
Montana came back from a 23-19 deficit with six straight points to win set three, Idaho State fought off nine (nine!) match points in the fourth set before winning, and the Grizzlies broke free from a 7-7 deadlock in the fifth set with four straight points to finally get a winning margin.
With the win Montana (10-13, 7-8 BSC) pulls even with Idaho State (14-13, 7-8 BSC) for fifth place in the Big Sky Conference standings with one night of regular-season matches remaining. The Grizzlies can assure themselves of a fifth-place finish with a win Saturday night over Weber State (3-25, 3-12 BSC).
"We want to make sure we finish the season strong. Both teams did tonight," UM coach Jerry Wagner said.
"At this time of year we want to be playing as hard as we were the first day of the year so that we can train ourselves to gear up every week.
"The kids did a nice job of battling in practice all week, so I knew we were going to battle well tonight."
To their credit, both teams fought like their seasons were on the line.
With the match tied at one set apiece, Idaho State went up 23-19 in the third set. Montana responded with a kill from Brooke Bray, an assisted block by Bray and Kelsey Schile, a kill by Schile and a service ace by Kayla Reno to even the score at 23.
A bad set by ISU setter Lori Mendenhall made it 24-23, and Amy Roberts finished off the set with a kill.
But that had nothing on the fourth set.
Montana led 24-19 and had five straight opportunities to close out the match, but Idaho State held on with a large assist from the Griz hitters. After two ISU kills made it 24-21, Montana had three straight attack errors to tie the score at 24 and give Idaho State new life.
The Bengals would fend off four more match points before pulling out a 31-29 victory.
With the fifth set tied 7-7, Bray and Schile paired up on another block to spark a decisive four-point run. Bray and Schile also added kills as Montana pulled away.
The lead reached 14-10 on a Roberts kill, and once again Idaho State fought back with three straight points to make it 14-13. A Mendenhall attack error finally ended play for the night.
The match's numbers were even across all categories except blocks. Montana finished with 13.0 team blocks to Idaho State's 8.0, and that proved to be the difference.
"I credit our defense, and not just our block," Wagner said. "Idaho State found some things that were working for them, but we made some adjustments and started getting digs on some important plays down the stretch."
Schile, who led Montana with 15 kills and three service aces, finished with a season-high seven blocks to lead the Grizzlies' effort at the net. Bray had six blocks, Brittany Quick five.
Megan Murphey had 18 digs, Roberts 16.
Montana's five attacking players all finished with between 10 and 15 kills. Schile had 15 on .212 hitting, Quick 12 on .276 hitting, Reno 12, Bray 11 on .240 hitting and Roberts 10.
Kortney James finished with 47 assists and also added to the team's offensive attack. She had six kills on .714 hitting.
Vanessa Muir led Idaho State with 16 kills on .394 hitting and five blocks.
Montana and Weber State meet at 7 p.m. Saturday at the West Auxiliary Gym. The Wildcats lost in three sets at Montana State Friday night.
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