Montana Tech volleyball head coach Brian Solomon and his players were coming off a positive start at the Hope International Summer Slam in Fullerton, CA, but the reoccurring aspect of the Orediggers’ media day was one word:

Practice.

“Any success we had down there is because we had a great week of practice,” Solomon said. “All the players brought great intensity for us… I’m just happy to get to practice today. We have a couple things to clean up on offense, a couple things to clean up on defense.”

Tech walked out of Hope International University, Solomon’s alma mater, with a 3-1 record and a foundation to the 2019 season. Sophomore middle blocker Sydney Parks also acknowledged the positive mindset surrounding the trip, but also acknowledges the importance of staying grounded.

“It was a super good, super fun trip,” said Parks, who made the Frontier Conference All-Freshman team in 2018. “We went 3-1 obviously, but probably could have gotten that other game so that’s a little frustrating. [The loss] puts us on our toes a little bit. I think if we went undefeated we would have felt like we were gliding, but definitely watching the film, there’s a lot that we can improve on ahead of conference play.”

While a good start is what the team desired, the attention to getting victories takes a backseat for steady improvement through practice each day, with the goal being a better performance in the Frontier Conference in 2019.

“Preseason is when all the work is put in,” said senior outside hitter Heather Thompson. “We’re practicing multiple times a day, we’re not in school yet, so it’s great for us to get as much work in before school starts and really mend together as a team before we go down to one practice a day. It’s really nice getting in some tournaments before school starts because we improve as a team and get the chance to go play before conference starts.”

The Orediggers posted an 8-4 conference record last season, but were unable to best Providence in the semifinals of the Frontier Conference tournament and finished the year at 17-15.

Solomon stressed that the team, for the most part, is sticking to the core competencies he’s implemented over the past seven seasons in charge. For a promising group of freshmen, Solomon is ensuring that improvement happens on and off the court through practice.

“We spent about a week installing everything we do in all capacities,” Solomon said. “Serving, passing, transition, blocking, defense… There’s a lot that’s going into it. We do adapt to our personnel, but there’s a balance. We’re installing everything we’d like to see from them and as a culture, it’s how hard they play, how they communicate on the court with each other, the intensity and focus from not just on the court, but on the bench.”

As Tech gears up for the Big Sky Volleyball Challenge, starting this Thursday at the Butte Civic Center, Solomon is focusing on continuing the process of integrating the freshmen class and ensuring their ready to contribute when conference play begins.

“They’re doing a lot of work there,” Solomon said. “It’s fun to watch Heather and some of the other returners work with our new players in that capacity, because it all can’t come from one of our coaches, it comes from them having to share a goal and working together to achieve it.”

The Orediggers kick off the Big Sky Volleyball Challenge against Northwest University at the Butte Civic Center at 5 p.m. on Thursday.

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