Volleyball team ready for Frontier Tournament

UMW News Bureau

Although the University of Montana Western did not get the wins this weekend, they were able to regain some confidence they will be taking with them to the Frontier Conference Tournament.

"I was very happy with the turnaround from the team in the 24 hours between the Thursday and Friday matches,” head coach Lisa Griffiths said. “Obviously, LCSC is a tough team and we didn't pull out the win but we played solid, composed volleyball."

On Thursday, Nov. 1, the Montana Tech Orediggers downed the Bulldogs in straight sets, 25-21, 25-20, 25-19.

Brea Mitchell led the Bulldogs with 13 kills and four blocks. Paige Latimer dished 33 assists and picked up 14 digs. Libero Shelby Mack had 19 digs while Emily Erickson had 14 to go along with her nine kills. Also reaching double-digits in the backcourt was Bailey Branson with 12 digs.

Montana Tech was led by Korey Krumm with 13 kills, Shersteen Cline with 11 kills, Syndey Norris with 10 kills and 10 digs, Alison Lunde with 32 assists and NAIA Division I dig leader Kimmy Kavran with 27 digs.

"Our first match of the week against Montana Tech was frustrating both for the staff and the players,” Griffiths stated. “There is always a lot of emotion in a rivalry game but the challenge is to settle down and execute. We had good moments but didn't play well enough to win the match."

To conclude regular season play for Montana Western, Lewis-Clark State College came to town on Friday, Nov. 2. The Warriors were able to pull off a 25-17, 25-18, 25-21 sweep of the Bulldogs.

For Montana Western, Bailey Branson and Brea Mitchell had eight kills apiece, followed by Charelle Minor with five. Paige Latimer had a good all-around match with 27 assists, eight digs, two aces and two blocks.

"We have a nice balance right now between our older and younger players,” Griffiths noted. “Brea Mitchell is leading us at the net in both blocking and attacking as a freshman and Shelby Mack is anchoring the backcourt with great passing and floor defense as a senior."

Friday marked the celebration of senior night for two Montana Western players, Shelby Mack from Three Forks, Mont. and Mariann Fretheim out of Shelby, Mont. Mack had 12 digs for the Bulldogs while Fretheim had a 0.227 hitting percentage with three kills and a block.

Mack has been a four-year starter at libero for the Bulldogs and is a captain of the 2012 team. She is a two-time Academic All-Conference selection and is on pace to break the Bulldogs’ season record for digs per set. Mack will be graduating next fall with a degree in elementary education and a minor in library media.

Fretheim has played right side and middle blocker for the Bulldogs. She was a 2011 Academic All-Conference selection and is majoring in secondary education, health and human performance. Fretheim is scheduled to student teach and graduate from Montana Western next fall.

The Frontier Conference standings were not decided until every match was finished Saturday evening. The final standings and conference records are as follows: Lewis-Clark State 11-4, Carroll 11-5, Great Falls 10-6, Northern 10-6, Montana Tech 8-8, Rocky Mountain 8-8, Westminster 7-8, Montana Western 5-11 and Dickinson State 0-14.

"I'm excited about the possibilities at the conference tournament this weekend,” Griffiths said. “There is so little separation between the teams in our conference this year. Every match is going to be a battle and everyone has a solid chance."

With nine teams in the conference this year, the eighth and ninth seeds will play each other for the only match in the first round. Montana Western (eighth) and Dickinson State (ninth) will battle it out on Thursday, Nov. 8 at 5 p.m. The winner will move on to play the first-place seed, Lewis-Clark State, on Friday, Nov. 9 at 12 p.m.