Oct. 22, 2012
Even though the Montana volleyball team dropped one of its three matches last week, usually the deathblow for a nominee, junior Brooke Bray's numbers were just too good to ignore. The middle blocker from Lake Tapps, Wash., turned her solid week into her first Big Sky Conference Player of the Week award the league office announced Monday.
Bray averaged 2.67 kills on .537 hitting and added 1.17 blocks per set as the Grizzlies went 2-1 against Montana State, North Dakota and Northern Colorado. Over the week's 12 sets, Bray totaled 32 kills and had just three attack errors on 54 swings. She also added eight digs and 14 blocks.
In Monday's victory at Montana State, in which Montana rallied back from a 0-2 deficit to win 3-2 for the Grizzlies' seventh consecutive win at Bozeman, Bray had a career-high 17 kills on .556 hitting with a match-high eight blocks.
She had four kills on .273 hitting and four blocks in Friday's 3-0 home loss to North Dakota, then helped Montana rebound with a 3-1 victory over preseason league favorite Northern Colorado at home Saturday. The Grizzlies won the final three sets after dropping the opener.
Bray had 11 kills and no attack errors on 16 swings against the Bears to hit .688. She also added two blocks.
Montana, which plays at Eastern Washington Thursday and at first-place Portland State Saturday, has won three of its last four matches to move up to eighth place in the league standings and within two games of sixth place, the cut to make the Big Sky tournament.
"This is great to see, but I know Brooke, and I know she is more excited about the team's recent success than she is about any individual awards," UM coach Jerry Wagner said.
"Awards like this only come about when a team is successful. And in order for a team to be successful, players have to be continually improving, and Brooke has been extremely diligent in doing that."
Bray, who has been Montana's player of the week nomination four times this fall, had a big week, but her numbers were hardly outliers during what has been a strong junior season. She has hit .300 or better in 13 of 21 matches and leads the Big Sky in hitting percentage during league play at .382.
Her blocks average of 1.24 for the season ranks third in the league, and her current season hitting percentage of .355 would be a Montana single-season record, surpassing three-time first-team All-Big Sky selection Jaimie Thibeault's .353 from 2009.
"Brooke has been extremely consistent and even above consistent since the start of training camp," Wagner added. "For us to get better as the season has gone along we've needed to have some pillars of strength, and Brooke has been one from the outset."
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