UMW News Bureau
The University of Montana Western volleyball team continued their winning ways over two more Frontier Conference teams. On Friday, Sept. 28, the Bulldogs prevailed in five sets over Rocky Mountain College and on Saturday, Sept. 29, Montana Western took down Dickinson State University in straight sets.
Against Rocky, the Bulldogs came out on top in the tough battle. Montana Western won the second, fourth and fifth sets for the 21-25, 25-23, 22-25, 25-20, 15-13 match victory. The last time the Bulldogs even took a set off the Battlin’ Bears was in 2007. The past 10 matches between the teams have been swept by Rocky.
"I was really happy to see the girls battle and fight back in the match against Rocky,” head coach Lisa Griffiths stated. “They were a tall team and had some powerful hitters so it was important that we weathered the storm and continued to play our game."
Montana Western was led with double-doubles from Bailey Branson with 12 kills and 20 digs, Emily Erickson with 15 kills and 11 digs and Paige Latimer with 52 assists and 10 digs. Match high honors went to Brea Mitchell with 17 kills, Charelle Minor with 11 blocks, Shelby Mack with 32 digs and Latimer in assists. Minor and Mack’s numbers were also their career highs as well as Branson’s digs and her six blocks.
Griffiths said the team’s blocking was crucial to the win. “Charelle and Bailey had a great presence at the net and that helped our floor defenders be able to play great defense behind them," Griffiths explained. “Montana Western had a season high 15 team blocks in the match.”
On Saturday, Sept. 29, the Bulldogs returned to the Straugh Gymnasium at 2 p.m. to sweep the Dickinson State Blue Hawks 25-12, 25-13, 25-21. The Bulldogs posted a 0.308 hitting percentage against DSU.
"Our match against Dickinson wasn't our best volleyball, but I was happy to see the team come out with fight after the physically and emotionally exhausting win against Rocky,” Griffiths said.
Bailey Branson had another terrific showing with 12 kills on a 0.458 percentage, eight digs and three blocks. Breanne Kelley added 11 kills and nine digs while Shelby Mack picked up 18 digs and two aces and Paige Latimer had 37 assists. The Bulldogs dominated in every statistical category: 48-25 in kills, 0.308-0.037 in hitting percentage, 44-24 in assists, 57-39 in digs and 7-2 in blocks.
The weekend marked the third straight conference win for the Bulldogs, who are now 3-4 in conference and 8-11 overall. Griffiths is happy with the team’s performance but knows there is always more work to be done to remain competitive in the Frontier Conference. She also noted the play of senior libero Shelby Mack and sophomore setter Paige Latimer.
"Shelby is such a huge part of what we are doing,” Griffiths stated. “Liberos rarely get the credit they deserve but without her steady play both passing and defensively, our offense would not have been able to be as effective as they were this weekend. Paige has been playing some of her best volleyball these past few weeks. She is making great decisions and distributing the ball well, which allows all of our hitters to be involved. When a team has four or five hitters being effective, they are much harder to defend against and that depth is one of our biggest strengths."
Montana Western will play the same teams this weekend, traveling to Rocky on Friday, Oct. 5 and to Dickinson on Saturday, Oct. 6. The match in Billings will start at 7 p.m. while the Dickinson match will start at 5 p.m.
The University of Montana Western has launched a national search for the provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs position.