(Editor's note: MSUB Athletics release)
BILLINGS – Despite a strong showing in set two, the Montana State University Billings volleyball team was swept by 16th-ranked Western Washington University, which clinched the Great Northwest Athletic Conference title Thursday night.
“We fought hard tonight but didn’t have the consistency to stay with a really good WWU team,” MSUB head coach Casey Williams said. “I loved to see some of our younger players step up and compete, and I am proud of how hard we fight every day.
In spite of the score, the Yellowjackets (10-15, 5-10 GNAC) had several bright spots against the Vikings (19-4, 15-1 GNAC): senior right side hitter Bayli Monck’s 12th dig midway through the third set made her the fifth player in MSUB history with at least 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs, joining Brandee Sayles (1994-97), Oliva Munro (2001-04), Devon Crotteau (2007-09) and Jennifer Boe (2007-10) as the only other ‘Jackets to achieve this statistical feat. Additionally, Joelle Mahowald led MSUB with 10 kills in her penultimate game in Alterowitz Gym, plus freshman Tiffany Chandler tied her career high with 8 kills on a collegiate-best .444 hitting percentage.
Skylar Reed got the ‘Jackets going early – first by getting MSUB on the board to open the game, and then by dialing up a service ace four points later. Hannah Hashbarger found Joelle Mahowald for her first kill of the night to give MSUB a 6-4 lead, yet WWU went on a 5-0 run that put them ahead for good. MSUB pulled within three at 14-11 with Bayli Monck’s rocket off a tight angle on the right side, then Mahowald stopped a Vikings run at 17-12, but the 16th-ranked team in the nation shook off the slow start to win the first set 25-15.
Needing a response after the first set, several younger Yellowjackets stepped up in the second. Tiffany Chandler notched her first kill off an assist from Kennedy Juranek, then Juranek dropped in a service ace towards the back line on the next point. A balanced offensive attack with contributions from Chandler, Monk, Mahowald and sophomore middle blocker Hannah Hayden helped MSUB not only control the match, but also achieve a game-best .240 hitting percentage in the second set.
Chandler, still the hot hand on the outside, helped MSUB tie it at 10-all before the set see-sawed. Neither team held serve for long midway through the second set until WWU pulled ahead 19-15. Then the ‘Jackets rallied. Hayden, Mahowald and Chandler helped pull off a 4-1 run, then Monck’s ace tied the game at 20-all and sent WWU into a timeout. Good service from MSUB got them back into the fray, as Mahowald’s ace pulled MSUB within one at 24-23. But despite nearly coming back twice late in the second, Western Washington won a close second set, 25-23.
In the third, MSUB fell behind 10-1 before Chandler snapped the Vikings’ run. Trailing 12-3, MSUB got the best of a long Western Washington run as Mahowald’s kill on the far right side pulled the ‘Jackets within eight. Midway through the set, Monck tallied her 12th dig of the night, which put her at 1,000 in her career, then had four more over the course of the match in order to surpass 1,000. The Yellowjackets would have one last run in them with a 4-1 run, which was mostly sparked by Chandler’s pair of kills, then teamed up with Mahowald on the left side for a block in order to make the score 19-11, WWU. Chandler and Reed would provide the next three points for MSUB, yet WWU kept the hosts no closer than eight points as it handed MSUB a 25-15 third-set loss.