Lady Dawgs open league win account

M.P. Regan
Wednesday, October 13, 2021
Block Party

University of Montana Western’s Kaitlyn White (left) and Emmah Peterson go up together to foil a kill attempt by visitors Rocky Mountain College at Straugh Gymnasium in Dillon during UMW volleyball team’s first league win on Friday night. M.P. Regan photo

An opening half of this Frontier Conference season characterized by long spells of inspired play but near-miss results for the University of Montana Western volleyball team climaxed last weekend with the Lady Bulldogs finally hitting the bullseye last weekend in Dillon against Rocky Mountain College.

“We’ve known we had that potential all season, so it was good to finally get a conference win,” said UMW’s Morgan Stenger after the Friday night victory—Western’s first match win in Frontier Conference play so far this season.

“We had a chip on our shoulder from losing that first set. It made us put the foot on the gas. We really wanted to beat Rocky,” said Stenger of Western dropping the first set to the Battlin’ Bears, but rebounding with a vengeance in Straugh Gymnasium to take the next three sets and the match, 22-25, 25-12, 25-23, 25-14.

“After we lost that first set, we talked about whether we were going to go through the same thing again, competing with a team, but not closing it out, or whether we were going to get a different result this time,” said UMW Head Coach Katie Lovett.

“We just came out a little stronger to start the next game and put ourselves in better positions to win the rest of the games in the end by playing with even more energy in the beginning of games,” said Lovett.

“We had been doing so well in practice, but freezing up a little bit in games,” revealed Lovett, whose Bulldogs (8-9 overall, 1-4 in Frontier Conference play) came into the match on a fourgame league losing streak.

“This was the first match where we saw everything we’ve worked on in practice translate into a game,” added Lovett, whose team continues to play with greater vigor than in recent season’s past.

“We knew that team would be relentless and not let many balls drop,” said Stenger of Rocky (10-12, 2-2), a perennial conference powerhouse.

“So we had the attitude that we had to be more relentless than them and put the pressure on them,” said Stenger, who led UMW with 15 kills.

“Our offense really worked well. The setters did a good job creating different kinds of opportunities. We had good passing and were able to get Rocky out of its system more, which gave us even more opportunities that we could take advantage of,” noted Lovett, whose Dawgs got 29 assists from Abbey Schwager and 17 from Kaylee Fritz.

“Our defense was really relentless and worked hard. When Rocky got a kill, our players did everything they could to make sure Rocky would not do that again and get into a rhythm,” said Stenger.

“Kelsey Goddard, our freshman libero, she kills it out of the back row every day,” stated Stenger of the freshman who led UMW’s efforts to keep Rocky from killing points with 33 digs—a key category to which Kaylee Kopp added 16 for UMW.

Western proved defensively daunting at the net as well, where the Dawgs virtually shut down Rocky on the right side, compelling the Bears to migrate elsewhere in search of spiking opportunities, with Danyel Martin stuffing 7 RMC kill attempts, and Kaitlyn White and Emmah Peterson turning back a combined 5 others.

“We went in with great energy, so to get that win at the end of the day was just amazing,” said Stenger, who credited an enthusiastic home crowd at Straugh Gymnasium that included her parents helped bolster her team’s energy even further.

“It feels so good to get the win. I think it’s the turning point for us. We have a bye next week, so it will be good to go into the second half of our season on a win.”

Next up for the Lady Bulldogs, a trip to Helena to take on Carroll College on Oct. 22.

“I think we only go up from here as a team. Every day, we’re going to put in the work at practice. So, hopefully, we can get more wins eventually,” said Stenger. “Because I think we can beat every team in the conference.”