Rocky Mountain College’s volleyball homecoming was a happy one.
With freshman outside hitter Ahlea Billis supplying 13 kills and 14 digs, the Battlin’ Bears disposed of Montana Tech 19-25, 25-23, 25-21, 25-13 Thursday night in a Frontier Conference match at the Fortin Center that also represented Rocky’s home opener.
“I’m thrilled,” Rocky coach Laurie Kelly said of her team’s solid performance after a slow start. “It does feel good to play at home, and I thought they answered back after the first game. They just got better and better and better as the night went on.
“I mean, we had 18 blocks tonight. That’s got to be pretty intimidating to teams.”
Tech also couldn’t counter Rocky’s powerful hitting and dominance defensively as the Bears, cheered on by the school’s football players, also used that extra oomph to improve to 2-2 in the Frontier and 6-11 overall.
“Our block was really good,” said the 6-foot-2 Billis, from Bozeman. “Our defense was there. We did well with our serve-receive. All-around we just played well. We were confident, and it definitely showed tonight.”
Rocky, which went up against 10 nationally ranked teams while competing at several tournaments over the past month, wound up playing its first 16 matches away from home.
Through it all, Kelly, whose roster includes several new faces, is still working to determine her best lineup. She used 12 different players throughout the night against the Orediggers.
“We had to mix it up. That’s why we had a little confusion out there tonight,” Kelly said. “I thought our young kids really kind of pulled through. We had three freshmen and three sophomores out there at some times. I’m pretty excited about it.
“There’s definitely room for growth with this team. We know every day that we get better. We just got to come out with a lineup that works for us.”
Against the Orediggers (1-4, 11-6), the Bears also received 20 digs from Jamie Elenbaas, 22 assists and 16 digs from Tori Bertsch and five blocks from Esther Timofeyev.
But it was Billis, hitting from every angle against the Orediggers, who provided many of the highlights.
Her back-to-back kills furnished the winning points in the second set, and then she came out and hit a healthy .667 with six kills in the third set.
“I was relaxed,” Billis said. “I asked my coach for help and she said ‘just play.’
“I thought Ahlea had the (match) of her life,” Kelly said afterward. “This is the first time we’ve had her play all the way around. I thought she did an excellent job.
“She competed hard and wasn’t one bit afraid. She just went out there and took it to them.”
Five different Rocky players had double-digits totals for digs.
The 5-11 BrieAnna Geck added 4 1/2 blocks and 6-3 Anna Dewald posted 3 1/2. They also had six kills apiece, and were big factors on the front row — along with Timofeyev — as Rocky bolted ahead 14-2 in the fourth set.
Tech was led by the 14 kills of Shersteen Cline, while Sydney Norris collected 13 kills and 13 digs. Kimmy Kavran, who is the NAIA leader for digs, was everywhere on the court in getting 39 against the Bears.
Rocky will remain at home Friday to play No. 24-ranked and league-leading Lewis-Clark State at 7 p.m.