UMW volleyball riding hot streak into Frontier season

M.P. Regan
Tuesday, September 20, 2022

It’s one thing to gain victories against competition out of a conference made up of teams from the Dakotas that you likely won’t see again for a long while.

It’s another, far more difficult and promising thing to earn wins over teams from your own, infamously tough Frontier Conference—teams that you’ll be matched up against the rest of the season.

And another thing still to triumph over the defending conference champions—a Montana Tech team you haven’t topped in a match in more than a decade.

The University of Montana Western volleyball team accomplished the first of those things earlier this month, then the other two over the past weekend, going on a winning streak to elevate their 2022 season record to 9-7.

A third of those nine wins came in matches at the Frontier Conference Preview tourney last weekend in Havre, where the Bulldogs took out conference stablemates the University of Providence, Montana State University-Northern and 2021 league champs Montana Tech.

“We’ve definitely been playing pretty well,” said UMW Head Coach Katie Lovett, whose Bulldogs (8-8) got above .500 for 2022 with eight straight wins, before falling Saturday to Rocky Mountain College on the final day of the Frontier Conference Preview tourney.

“Our time has come to have things click for us,” said Lovett, now in her fourth season at the helm of a program in the midst a long rebuilding phase.

“Our blocking has been really good,” asserted Lovett, who’s gotten a combined 105 blocks so far this season from the formidable frontline pair of Peyton Vogl and Danyel Martin, plus 246 digs by Kelsey Goddard and another 450 from the rearguard trio of Kaylee Kopp, Kalyee Fritz and Morgan Kirch.

“Danyel Martin has been very consistent offensively and defensively,” said Lovett of the 6-foot-2-inch sophomore stalwart who served up a potent 7-and-7 (7 kills and 7 blocks) to Montana Tech.

“And our offense has been moving the ball around well,” added Lovett of a side of the net where Fritz (8.3 assists per game) has been loading the weapons in a wide-ranging UMW attack featuring Jazi Smith and Kopp, each averaging nearly ten kills per match.

Kopp led a balanced team of assassins who laid low Montana Tech last Friday on the Hi-Line, notching 11 kills with a .323 hitting percentage in helping her Bulldogs sweep an Oredigger team that had seemed immortal to UMW since 2011.

“Kaylee Kopp has been extremely reliable,” said Lovett of the junior from Colorado in the midst of a breakout college season.

“We can always trust her. We know she will do right thing with the ball,” said Lovett, who’s getting contributions from all over her roster.

Up next for the Bulldogs, the matches that count the most, as the Western women travel to Helena for the start of their regular conference season, which opens with a 7 p.m. Friday showdown with Carroll College.

“We did not play Carroll this past weekend in Havre, but we saw them play,” said Lovett of a Fighting Saints team that often challenges for the league title.

“They’re as tough as usual. Carroll has a lot of weapons and spreads the ball around well,” said Lovett of a Carroll team that’s proven a bogeyman for the Western women in recent seasons.

“But we’ve been playing really well and are excited to get into Frontier Conference play and see where it goes from there.”

The UMW volleyball team will play its first home match of the season on Sept. 30, when the Bulldogs welcome the University of Providence to Straugh Gymnasium for a 6 p.m. match.