Griz on the road this weekend, wins now critical
Nov. 1, 2012
The Montana volleyball team will take its penultimate regular-season road trip this week when the Grizzlies play at Idaho State and Weber State. The Grizzlies will face the Bengals Friday at 7 p.m. at Pocatello, Idaho, and the Wildcats Saturday at 7 p.m. at Ogden, Utah.
Montana's position in a nutshell: The Grizzlies (6-17, 4-10 BSC) are currently sitting in ninth place in the Big Sky Conference with three weekends and six regular-season matches remaining for all 11 league teams. The top six when the dust settles on Monday, Nov. 19, will make the Big Sky tournament, which will be held Nov. 23-24 at Greeley, Colo.
At a minimum, Montana needs to get to seven wins, which means going 3-3 over its final six matches. Doable because the Grizzlies close the season with three of four at home.
But that scenario means at least one of the teams tied for fifth at 7-7, North Dakota and Montana State, does not win again, and that the two teams directly ahead of Montana at 5-9, Sacramento State and Southern Utah, do not make any sort of a move down the stretch either.
More realistically, Montana needs to get hot, like 5-1 hot, and that means having some success this weekend.
Why it will be tough (reason 1): Idaho State (18-5, 12-2 BSC) is the type of hot Montana needs to be. The Bengals, who have already clinched a postseason tournament spot, have won eight of nine and last weekend went on the road and won in three sets at both North Dakota and Northern Colorado, a rare feat that could only be pulled off by a team playing as well as any in the Big Sky Conference right now.
Second-place ISU is one of three teams, along with first-place Portland State (17-8, 13-1 BSC) and third-place Northern Arizona (19-4, 11-3 BSC), that is in contention to win the regular-season championship.
Why it will be tough (reason 2): Weber State (9-17, 2-12 BSC) is just 1-5 over its last six matches, but the Wildcats pushed both North Dakota and Northern Arizona to five sets on the road the last two weekends and are coming off a home-court win over Texas-Pan American in four sets Monday night.
Why it's possible (reason 1): When Montana played Idaho State in Missoula in September, the Grizzlies took the first two sets against the Bengals, 25-23, 25-22, and looked like the better team in jumping out to the early lead. ISU rallied to win in five and looked more composed doing it, but Montana led 9-8 in the fifth, so it's a matchup, despite the teams' records and place in the standings, that could be even Friday.
Why it's possible (reason 2): Montana lost to Weber State in five sets at Missoula, one night before falling in five to Idaho State and one week after losing in five to Portland State, but the Grizzlies have the better body of work over the course of the Big Sky schedule.
Montana has a four-set win over fourth-place Northern Colorado, a team that has twice swept Weber State and a five-set road win at fifth-place Montana State. WSU's lone league wins were at Montana and at home against last-place Eastern Washington.
Current Big Sky Conference standings
This week's Big Sky Conference schedule
Most recently: Montana went on road last week and finished 0-2 at Eastern Washington and Portland State for the 12th straight year. The Grizzlies had a discouraging 3-0 loss to the Eagles last Thursday, 25-16, 25-18, 25-17. EWU had won just once in its previous 27 matches dating back to last season.
Montana played better two nights later at PSU. The Grizzlies won the opening set, 25-21, but the Vikings were better the rest of the match and clicked off 25-20, 25-22 and 25-18 victories.
Bray maxed out: If Montana is going to make a late-season push, the spark will need to come from someone other than junior middle blocker Brooke Bray. She's doing everything possible right now.
Bray's .356 season hitting percentage is the best mark in the Big Sky Conference, and she ranks second in blocks (.126/s). Bray has hit .550 or better in three of Montana's last six matches and .438 or better in four of the last six.
Murphey out for the season: Junior libero Megan Murphey, who leads the team with 301 digs (3.54/s), is done for the season after suffering a knee injury in Thursday's loss at Eastern Washington. Junior Samantha Maas took over libero duties at Portland State and played well, finishing with 23 digs, the third-best one-match total on the team this season.
Montana notes: Junior setter Kortney James had a career-high 19 digs at Portland State and posted her eighth assists-digs double-double of the season against the Vikings. ... Junior middle blocker Janele Vogt has totaled 20 kills on .279 hitting over the last three matches, with nine blocks. ... After missing 10 straight matches due to injury, redshirt freshman middle blocker Capri Richardson played a set Saturday at Portland State and had a pair of blocks.
Upcoming: If Montana can help itself this weekend, the Grizzlies will travel home knowing it closes with three of four at home. Montana will host Northern Arizona and Southern Utah next weekend, play at Sacramento State on Saturday, Nov. 17, then end the season at home against Montana State on Monday, Nov. 19.
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