BILLINGS — Casey Williams sees them.

Some are just tougher to see than others.

The second-year coach for the Montana State Billings volleyball team tries to find bright spots in every match and every practice.

Some bright spots show up more often than others.

“We see little things improved on,” said Williams.

One large bright spot has been the play of freshman Izela Alvarez.

With 37 digs against Rocky Mountain College on Tuesday — her second most for a match this year — the libero from Dumas, Texas, already ranks in the top 10 for a single-season.

Making plays anywhere and everywhere for MSUB, Alvarez helped MSUB stay close to the Battlin’ Bears in all three sets.

“Izela was terrific in the back row,” said Williams. “She’s been unbelievable for us.”

Alvarez has 422 digs with five matches remaining in the regular season. She needs 19 more digs to reach No. 2 all-time for a single-season, which is Diane Vargo with 440 in 1998. Alvarez is averaging 16 digs a match.

The single season record is 577 by Erin Compton in 2012.

“She’s just an all-around performer as far as a libero is concerned,” Williams who knows a little bit about the position, having been a standout libero at Billings Skyview, Spokane Falls Community College and West Alabama.

“Izela is too good for me to be tough on her,” the coach finished with a smile.

Don’t touch

There are certain rules when it comes to practice for the Rocky Mountain College football program.

Be on time.

Pay attention.

Play hard.

And …

“Don’t touch the quarterback,” said linebacker Chase Bertelsen.

“You don’t touch the quarterback,” he emphasized.

Bertelsen added there is no hitting the receivers when they are down or crack back blocks on plays.

But quarterbacks must remain untouched.

“Quarterbacks are kind like purple cows around here. Sacred,” said Battlin’ Bears head coach Jason Petrino. “Like Joe Glenn said, ‘You don’t want to hurt yourselves.’ “

And should a quarterback be touched, brushed or tackled during live scrimmaging, there will be consequences.

“I think there would be some conditioning type reminder,” Petrino said.

Watchful eyes

If the Battlin’ Bears have a home football game on a Saturday afternoon, you can usually find the coaches of local high school games the night before at Herb Klindt Field. 

Down near the goal line, they stand singularly or sometimes in groups, watching prospective players. If possible, a coach or two will attend two games in an evening.

Video can only tell so much about a player. Rocky coaches want potential recruits to pass the eye test.

“When I go, I look for leadership and passion,” said Petrino. “When you watch a video, you usually only see the good plays. I want to see how a player recovers after a bad play.

“Is he one to encourage others or does he lead by example to lift his teammates? You get to see the intangibles that you don’t always see on film.”

Email Joe Kusek at or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJoe.