Volleyball: Griz Fall to Bobcats, Drop to No. 7 Seed (PHOTO GALLERY)

By JOEL CARLSON | Photos by WILLIAM MUNOZ

The Montana volleyball team lost to Montana State in straight sets Saturday night at the West Auxiliary Gym in Missoula in the final regular-season match of the season for both teams.

The Bobcats (7-21, 4-12 BSC) end their season on a two-match winning streak, while the Grizzlies (6-22, 6-10 BSC) go into the Big Sky Conference tournament on a five-match losing streak.

Montana, which clinched a tournament spot Thursday night when Southern Utah lost at Portland State, will be making its sixth postseason appearance in nine seasons under coach Jerry Wagner.

The Grizzlies will be the tournament’s No. 7 seed and face No. 2 North Dakota (25-8, 13-3 BSC) Thursday at 10:30 a.m. at Pocatello, Idaho, in the tournament’s opening quarterfinal match.

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UM VS MSU. Photo by ©William Munoz

UND swept the teams’ season series, winning in four sets at Missoula and three sets at Grand Forks.

In other quarterfinal matches Thursday, No. 3 Northern Colorado will play No. 6 Portland State at 1 p.m., No. 4 Idaho will face No. 5 Northern Arizona at 5 p.m. and No. 1 Idaho State will play No. 8 Southern Utah at 7:30 p.m.

Friday’s semifinals are at 5 and 7:30 p.m., Saturday’s championship match at 7:30 p.m. If Montana wins its quarterfinal match, it will face the winner of the UNC-PSU match in the 5 p.m. semifinal on Friday.

Montana could have played its way up to the sixth seed with a win Saturday night, but the Grizzlies could do little to slow down the strong-armed attack of Kennadie Clute and Eli Svisco, who combined for 29 kills on .284 hitting.

The 25-23, 26-24, 25-21 win was only Montana State’s third victory over Montana in the teams’ last 18 meetings. The Bobcats hit .315 for the match, the Grizzlies .168.

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UM VS MSU. Photo by ©William Munoz

The key for Montana State in the first two sets was its quick starts. The Bobcats jumped out to a 10-5 lead in the first set and an 8-4 lead in the second.

Montana never caught up in the opener, allowing Montana State to score 20 of its 25 points on kills. In the second, the Bobcats scored the final two points on a Jolie Mead kill and Griz attack error, one of their 20 hitting errors for the match.

Montana State built a 2-0 lead in the teams’ earlier matchup at Bozeman in September, and Montana stormed back for a five-set victory.

There was a hint Saturday night’s match might at least start on the same track when the Grizzlies built a 21-18 lead in set three to force an MSU timeout, but a Clute kill gave Montana State the serve, and Dana Vestman finished off a match-closing 7-0 run from the service line.

Another Clute kill, her final of the match, gave the Bobcats a 22-21 lead, and Vestman made it 23-21 with an ace. Back-to-back hitting errors by Montana ended play.

Freshman Janell Sparks was Montana’s top offensive threat, finishing with 11 kills on .308 hitting. Redshirt senior Natalie Jones had eight kills and a team-high four blocks in her final home match.

Montana Sports Information

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