SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Montana Tech's volleyball team may not have gotten off to a red-hot start in its first match at the NAIA Volleyball National Championship but the Orediggers managed to rally and emerge with a win.
Powered on offense by a 17-kill performance from senior Angela Molesworth and anchored on defense with a 29-dig outing from sophomore Sabrina Hopcroft, No. 14 Tech battled back after dropping the opening set and held off the No. 18 Madonna (Mich.) Crusaders 18-25, 26-24, 23-25, 25-15 in the first round of pool play at the Tyson Events Center on Tuesday morning.
The Orediggers, playing in their second consecutive NAIA Tournament and third since 1988, improved to 23-8 and won their opening tournament match for the second straight year. Tech will continue pool play against Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University on Wednesday.
"We got some nerves out of the way and we're pretty happy and in a good position for starting out pool play," said Tech coach Brian Solomon. "I think generally we saw some nerves this morning but it was good to see us grind it out and we found our rhythm towards the end of the match."
Masha Korol, the Frontier Conference Player of the Year and Newcomer of the year, and Nicole Peacock each contributed 10 kills, Hannah Liss and Nicole Peacock each delivered three aces and Haley Druyvestein paced the Orediggers with four block assists.
Tech stumbled in the first set, falling to the Crusaders while being limited to 10 total kills and generating only a .057 hitting percentage.
The Orediggers found their footing after that.
In the second set, Tech managed to secure the win after Madonna grabbed a 23-21 lead and the Orediggers then overcame a five-point deficit in the third set and broke a 22-22 tie before putting the set away.
The Orediggers turned on the jets in the fourth set, registering a .323 hitting percentage and cruising past the Crusaders to secure the match victory.
"We hit a huge stretch where we started playing really well, starting in the third set and that carried into the fourth," said Solomon. "We were where we wanted to be."
Though early-tournament jitters have been at play in Tech's first match, Solomon believes that the Orediggers found their tempo and will be ready to roll in Wednesday's match.
"I think today provided some really valuable experience moving forward," said Solomon. "It was great to win and hang in even when we weren't playing great."