UMW volleyball splits road matches

UMW News Bureau

The University of Montana Western volleyball team traveled to Billings on Friday, Oct. 5 to take on Rocky Mountain College. On Saturday, the Bulldogs continued east until they reached Dickinson, N.D., home of the Blue Hawks of Dickinson State University.

Last weekend at home, Montana Western was victorious over the same teams, beating Rocky in five sets and sweeping Dickinson in three. This weekend was a slightly different story. The Battlin’ Bears of Rocky Mountain College turned the tables and were able to sweep the Bulldogs, 25-19, 25-16, 25-19.

Breanne Kelley and Bailey Branson each had nine kills for the Bulldogs. Emily Erickson had 11 digs while Branson picked up 10 and added two blocks. Paige Latimer had a nice all-around game with 27 assists, eight digs and three kills on a 0.375 percentage. Rocky was led by Anna Dewald’s 14 kills and Jamie Elenbaas’ 16 digs.

On Saturday, Dickinson State University was able to get a set off the Bulldogs, but that was all they would win. Montana Western prevailed in the 25-20, 25-17, 26-28, 25-20 Frontier Conference match.

"Paige and Shelby had great defensive performances against DSU and that helped us slow down their hitters,” head coach Lisa Griffiths stated. “Paige has really stepped up her floor defense and that can be seen in earning her seventh double-double of the season."

Shelby Mack led the defense with 17 digs. Paige Latimer had 46 assists and 14 digs to complete her double-double. She also had five kills (0.625 percentage) and a service ace. Breanne Kelley again led the Bulldogs in kills with 17 (0.371 percentage) and added six digs, two blocks and one service ace. Four other players rounded out the even hitting distribution, Bailey Branson with 11 kills, Charelle Minor and Brea Mitchell with nine apiece and Emily Erickson with seven.

"Travel in the Frontier is challenging, so I'm pleased to come away from the weekend with a split,” Griffiths added. “We could have played better against Rocky but the girls bounced back and played well against a dangerous Dickinson State team."

Montana Western will remain on the road this weekend, heading to Helena on Friday, Oct. 12 and to Great Falls on Saturday, Oct. 13. Both matches are at 7 p.m. Carroll College is the lone Frontier Conference team the Bulldogs have not faced. They are currently in second place with a 16-7 (6-3) record. Their last three matches were all on the road to five sets: a loss at Westminster, a win at Lewis-Clark and a loss at Montana Tech. The Saints are led by junior middle blocker Elli Graff with 2.55 kills and 1.39 blocks per set. Catie Hanser adds 4.26 digs while Natalie Stewart dishes out 5.83 assists.

The Great Falls Argos continue to be led by senior outside hitter Kelsey Van Uden’s 4.19 kills/set. Kila Adams averages 6.25 assists and Jenna Prescott contributes 3.71 digs. Since their four-set loss to Montana Western on Sept. 22, the Argos have gone 2-2 in conference. They hosted Montana Tech (four-set win), Lewis-Clark State (five-set loss) and Montana State Northern (three-set win). Most recently, Great Falls traveled to Montana Tech and lost in four sets.

In the Frontier Conference, the Bulldogs are in a three-way tie for fifth place with a 9-12 (4-5) record.

"This weekend was definitely a lesson in establishing and following a game plan,” Griffiths said. “We fluctuated in our ability to do that and that dictated our success. We have to find a way to establish our tempo early in the match and continue going to our strengths if we are going to win close matches."

The Frontier Conference continues to be competitive with any given team able to win each night. The tournament seeds aren’t likely to be settled until Nov. 3, the last weekend of conference play.