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Carroll vball at Tech

Montana Tech's Masha Korol tries to spike the ball through the Carroll College blocking duo of Taelyr Krantz, right, and Mallory Arbizzani during Thursday night's Frontier Conference match at the Orediggers' HPER Complex. Carroll won the match.

Al Balderas, 406mtsports.com

BUTTE – Maureen Boyle is best known for her skills as the Carroll College volleyball coach but one might wonder if she has psychic powers as well.

While planning this season’s schedule, Boyle opted to leave the last two weeks free of matches. The strategy paid off as Carroll beat Montana Tech, 19-25, 25-18, 22-25, 25-21, 15-8, Thursday night at the HPER Complex.

Montana Tech traveled to Iowa, where it went 3-1 in a four-match tournament during the conference’s bye week.

The loss was the first in Frontier Conference play for the host Orediggers, leaving them in a first-place tie with Rocky Mountain College. Both teams are 6-1 in the league.

The Saints improved to 4-3 in conference play and are poised to make a serious run at the title during the second half of the season.

“It’s been our focus since two weeks ago when we stopped (playing),” Boyle said. “We did not play during the bye week and we needed the break. We were trying to get people healthy and back in the mode of the game.

“We’re hoping that this jumpstarts our second half.”

The loss makes up for Carroll’s conference opener, which was a five-set loss to Montana Tech. The Orediggers breezed through the first half of their conference schedule, dropping just two combined sets in wins over Lewis-Clark State, Montana Western, Rocky Mountain, MSU-Northern and Providence.

But Tech coach Brian Solomon could see some discrepancies, and the Saints took advantage of them.

“I’ve been concerned on this same thing for about a month,” he said after his team slipped to 16-7 overall. “We’ve been fortunate on the other end in a lot of matches. There are some things we have to be better at and we’ve been talking about it over and over.

“It sure hurt us (Thursday). I think Carroll played really well and they earned that victory. They did a lot of good work.”

The Orediggers opened up the match strong but it didn’t take long for inconsistencies to set in. Hits weren’t as crisp. Serves were missing their marks and errors became frequent.

With the exception of the first set, in which the Orediggers outscored the Saints during a 10-3 run to take control, Montana Tech struggled to gain any momentum.

A lot of that can be blamed by the Carroll defense, which was led by Ayla Carpenter. The sophomore from Washington led the team with 29 digs, and was one of five Saints with double-figures in digs.

Rayna Pilgeram, a product of Capital High, connected on 12 of 19 kill attempts, finishing with a .526 hitting percentage. Holly Morehouse led Carroll with 14 kills.

By contrast, Masha Korol led the Orediggers with 13 kills but had a .113 hitting percentage. Angela Molesworth and Haley Druyvestein had 12 and 11, respectively.

The errors were especially costly in the fifth set when the Saints scored the first eight points and were never threatened.

“We made a lot of errors through the whole match,” Solomon said. “We had a lot of errors. We had six hitting errors in 15 points there (in the fifth set). A lot sets we lost because more than half of their points were our errors. We didn’t deserve to get a better result than what we did.”

The Orediggers don’t have a lot of time to bounce back. They will board a bus on Friday for a trip to Lewis-Clark State in hopes of righting their ship.

Now that the Saints have found the formula that works, Boyle is hoping to see it keep working.

“There was just a strong focus on playing our game every single ball and not letting one possession go away without there being serious thought,” she said. “You can’t just battle for the match. You have to battle for the sets. You’ve got to battle for the points. And sometimes you have to battle for every serve.

“That has been our focus for two weeks.”

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