Montana Tech's volleyball squad will open its 2019 campaign in the Golden State.
Coming off a 17-15 (8-4) season that saw the Orediggers fall in the semifinals of the Frontier Conference Tournament and miss out on the NAIA National Tournament for the first time in two years, Tech will begin its season with a slate of four non-conference games at the Hope International Summer Slam in Fullerton, California.
The Orediggers will take on John Brown University (Arkansas) and La Sierra University (California) on Wednesday. Tech will compete against Westmont College (California) and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University on (Arizona) on Friday.
The tournament venue, Hope International University, is the alma mater of eighth-year Tech volleyball head coach Brian Solomon who carries an overall record of 222-161 into the 2019 season.
Tech will enter the season-opening tournament after being selected third in the Frontier Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll behind No. 1 University of Providence and No. 2 Rocky Mountain College.
Perhaps the biggest question mark surrounding Tech's roster entering the new season will be replacing the production of stalwart outside hitter Masha Korol. Korol joined the Orediggers as a junior transfer for the 2017 season, going on to earn Frontier Conference Player of the Year and Frontier Conference Newcomer of the Year accolades as Tech claimed the 2017 Frontier Conference regular season crown and Frontier Conference Tournament championship.
Korol was just as effective throughout the 2018 season, pacing Tech with 433 kills en route to all-conference honors.
With Korol and last year's other lone senior, setter Hannah Liss, now graduated, Tech will be looking to a new pair of seniors to guide the Orediggers.
Providing a wealth of defensive experience will be senior libero Sabrina Hopcroft who registered 616 digs last season. Her average of 5.1 digs per set was second only to Montana Western's Dylan Fowler.
Tech's strength up front will largely fall on the arms of senior Heather Thompson. Last season, Thompson paced the Frontier Conference with a league-leading 134 block assists.
Offensive strength will come from junior outside hitter Karina Mickelson who finished the 2018 season with 384 kills to make her the conference's fourth most efficient attacker.
Tech will play its first home matches at the Big Sky Volleyball Challenge at the Butte Civic Center on Aug. 22 and 23. The Orediggers will then head for two other tournaments before opening Frontier play against Providence on Sept. 19.