HELENA -- Carroll fought out of a 2-1 set deficit, but No. 17 Montana Tech prevailed in the decider, closing out the first match of conference play with a 15-12 set victory on Thursday at the PE Center in the Frontier Conference opener for both squads.
“I think it was a testament of the whole match,” Saints coach Moe Boyle said of the final set. “We were up and down. I don’t think we’re making the adjustments quick enough during the match. When you have momentum you have to keep momentum. I think we give it away too easily sometimes. We’re not there yet.”
The Saints (7-9, 0-1 Frontier) entered the night against Tech (8-5, 1-0) after taking down Benedictine-Mesa 3-0 in convincing fashion. Carroll won the sets 25-14, 25-22, 25-12, entering conference play on a high note. The team felt like it had put everything together before facing off against Montana Tech.
In the first set, the Saints jumped out to a 3-1 lead and did not trail, prompting Montana Tech timeouts. After trailing by as many as seven points, the Orediggers climbed back within three in the first game, 18-15. Tech kept it close, at 19-16, but the Saints went on a run to close the game out with Laurel Kassa closing the game out with an ace, 25-17.
“The first set was good,” Boyle said of her team carrying momentum. “And then when we crossed that line to go into the second set, I don’t know what happened. That invisible wall that you cross… Definitely the momentum switched and we couldn’t get it back in time. That’s, again, not making the adjustments quick enough to make a difference on our side.”
Tech opened the second game with a lead and Carroll had a hard time overcoming it. Tech went up 12-7and then built a 10-point lead at 22-12 before winning 25-14 and tying the match at 1-1.
“We just made fewer mistakes than that first,” Montana Tech coach Brian Solomon said. “We scored a lot of points for both sides in that first one. We didn’t necessarily hit the ball very well. We settled down just a little bit. It’s a challenge to drop the first set and then come back. I was proud of the effort grinding out the whole match.”
Tech setter Tori Chelini opened up set three with five straight points, finally yielding her serve out of bounds. Carroll climbed back into it to trail by one at 6-5, but Tech jumped head again at 13-8. The Saints climbed back in to trail 17-16. A Saints service error closed the set 25-21 for the Orediggers.
Saints tied the second set at four after falling behind early on. The Saints started out serving, but Tech was able to build a lead. A Brielle Bumgardner block gave the Saints the lead and then an ace by Aylea Carpenter gave the Saints a 7-5 lead. Carroll grabbed a 12-9 lead to give the Saints their largest margin since the first set. Carroll built that lead to 16-11. The Saints took game four 25-20, capped up with a Bumbarger and Rayna Pilgeram block.
The Saints had a 2-1 lead in the final set, but Tech went up 6-3 and then 10-7 before Carroll battled back to tie it at 10 after a Pilgeram drop shot. One timeout later, and Tech grabbed a 12-10 lead. Carroll, again, came back to tie the game at 12, but Tech closed it out 15-12.
Tech and Carroll battled for the conference crown last season. The Saints won that match 3-1, and both teams advanced to the national tournament.
The Saints take on Lewis-Clark State at the PE Center on Friday.