MISSOULA — A night after Montana pushed Montana State to the brink, one point away from a five-set victory, the Bobcats made quick work of the Grizzlies on Monday night, winning in straight sets, 25-16, 25-17, 25-20.
Montana fell behind from the jump, with Montana State's Delaney Shearan opening the match with nine consecutive serves as the Bobcats built a 9-0 lead before the Grizzlies got on the scoreboard. To Montana's credit, the Grizzlies worked their way back to within a point, 13-12, but another 6-0 serving run from Shearan late in the frame put the set out of reach. Montana was limited to just five kills in the set, hitting -.111 (5-8-27).
"The most frustrating part of the series was the fact that we went from feeling like we were in complete control of how we responded to MSU's pressure (on Sunday) to starting out flat," UM head coach Allison Lawrence said. "We got back within one, and it felt like we had made it through the rough start, but we kept playing on our heels."
The Griz again fell behind in the second set, with Montana State taking the first four points before building an 11-4 advantage. Montana hit a respectable .172 in the frame, but the Bobcats were nearly unstoppable on offense, hitting at a .484 clip, with 17 kills compared to just two errors.
Montana showed fight in the third set, scoring the first two points to take its first lead of the night. The Griz led by as many as three points and didn't trail for the first time until MSU's block came up big on three consecutive plays, allowing the Bobcats to turn a 12-11 deficit into a 15-12 lead. The Bobcats were then able to fend off potential Griz rallies and win the set, 25-20.
No Grizzlies were in double figures for kills, with sophomore outside hitter Amethyst Harper leading Montana with eight kills. Freshman outside hitter Sophia Meyers had seven kills, followed by freshman setter Carly Anderson, who was next with five kills on six attempts.
A night after Montana's middle blockers combined for 27 kills, the duo was limited to just four kills on Monday.
"They jumped into angles that were working for us (on Sunday) and took away spots defensively that we used, and honestly, we didn't pass well enough to use our middles the way we did (Sunday night)," Lawrence said. "Their athletes were executing their adjustments at a high level, and then we couldn't even make our adjustments because we were behind."
On Sunday, Montana won the opening set, 25-21, before winning the fourth set, 25-20. The Griz led at multiple points in the fifth set, including 15-14, one point away from winning the match.
Freshman Sarah Ashley, who earned her first career start at libero after replacing injured Sarina Moreno in the third set on Sunday, led Montana with 11 digs. She also had a service ace during Montana's 8-0 run to get within a point in the first set. Ashley also served during an 8-0 run on Sunday and recorded five service aces in the first significant playing time of her career.
Montana started four true freshmen on Monday.
As a team, Montana was out-hit .354 to .088, with Montana State recording 20 more kills than Montana (47 to 27). The Bobcats also had 10 more digs and three more blocks. The Griz did have six service aces, including two from freshman middle blocker Madi Chuhlantseff, and recorded just two service errors after tallying 15 on Sunday. Chuhlantseff led Montana with four blocks, followed by Anderson's three.
"On Sunday we were creating kills with our feet and really being the aggressors offensively," Lawrence said. "Tonight, we were playing slower behind the play, which is super frustrating."
Now at the midpoint of a unique spring season, Montana will aim to turn things around as it did a season ago. The Griz travel to Eastern Washington for a pair of afternoon matches next Sunday and Monday.