HELENA — Carroll College volleyball coach Moe Boyle described Wednesday’s matchup against No. 17 Montana Tech in four simple words.
“We needed to finish,” Boyle said.
Boyle watched her team give up leads late in the second and third sets to hand the Orediggers the match in four sets, 25-23, 25-27, 23-25, 19-25.
“We had our chances,” Boyle said. “I think, in the end, we were afraid to swing and we got really hesitant. You can’t do that against a team like Tech.”
The Saints entered the PE Center with something to prove.
Just over a month ago, Carroll lost the first match against Montana Tech in five sets.
But it took the Saints a while to get going.
The two teams exchanged the lead but Carroll fell behind 19-15 after a kill by Montana Tech outside hitter Gena McMillan.
That was until Carroll’s Ailyah Williams came alive.
All season, Williams has been the team’s setter.
Before the match, Boyle decided to do things differently.
“We needed to make a change to have a better impact for us,” Boyle said. “She did a great job.”
After Williams came away with a pair of blocks and a kill, 6-2 outside hitter Lexi Mikkelsen rose above the net for the match-point kill.
Momentum pushed the Saints through the second set, but Montana Tech kept the game within reach.
Finally, the Orediggers put a rally together that saw a joint effort from outside hitters Maureen Jessop and Heather Thompson.
Jessop finished the game with a team-high 14 kills, two of which were used to take the second set and tie the match up.
Soon enough, Carroll started to see its momentum swing toward Montana Tech.
The Saints once again took control of the third set, but the Orediggers dug their way out of a hole.
A few kills by Thompson gave Montana Tech a 25-23 win and a 2-1 match lead.
She finished third on the team with 11 kills, but her coach praised her for being a leader when her team was looking in the face of a loss.
“Our upperclassmen were so strong for us,” Montana Tech coach Brian Solomon said. “They really helped carry the load for us.”
By the third set, the Orediggers were in control.
Carroll tried to put together rallies from a few kills by Mikkelsen and a few by senior Hannah Dean, but in the end Montana Tech was too much.
Mikkelsen finished with a team-high 16 kills, but she and her teammates are looking past that.
The season is winding down and the Frontier Conference Tournament is now in view, so they use this as a learning experience.
After all, there are only two days to prepare for another ranked opponent in No. 24 Lewis-Clark State.
“They are a high-level team and they play fast,” Boyle said. “We are going to have to find a way to stay calm and composed during the match.”
The Saints will honor seniors Dean, Ayla Carpenter, and Jenna Starke before the match.