BUTTE, Mont. – The Viterbo University Women’s Volleyball team, ranked ninth in the NAIA Preseason coaches poll, started their season with a pair of top 15 wins on Thursday at the Big Sky Challenge in Butte, Montana. The V-Hawks topped No. 12 Eastern Oregon University 3-1 (25-22, 13-25, 25-19, 25-23) in the first game of their 2022 season. VU then went on to defeat host No. 13 Montana Tech 3-1 (19-25, 25-23, 25-22, 25-21) to improve to 2-0.
The opening set of the V-Hawks 2022 started slow with a pair of errors before Lauren Sobasky set up Grace Rohde for the first kill of the season. Viterbo and Eastern Oregon would trade points until back-to-back assists by Maddie Connor to Kenzie Winker and Martina McGrath tied the game at 6-6. Marissa Kleman’s kill gave VU their first lead of the season at 12-9, and a few Mountaineer errors, including a Winker block, helped extend the V-Hawk lead to 15-11. Cailie Kowal’s ace gave Viterbo their largest lead of the first set at 18-13. However, Eastern Oregon would rally late to retake the lead 21-19 with the help of multiple Kara Clayton aces. Connor set up Kleman to end the Mountaineers 8-1, and the V-Hawks would go on a 6-1 run of their own to win the first set 25-22 off a Adrianna Reinhart to Winker kill.
Eastern Oregon started the second set up 3-0 on thee straight VU errors, and would not look back. Mariah Calkins kill brought the game within one at 4-5, but EOU would quickly turn that one-point lead into a 12-point lead, with back-to-back Alexis McMurtrey aces putting the Mountaineers up 19-7. Despite a few EOU errors, and a few more Winker kills, Eastern Oregon would take the second set 25-13.
The third set was EOU’s turn to start slow, with four straight errors and a McGrath-Calkins block helping to put the V-Hawks up 8-1 early. Jada Mitchell scored consecutive points on assists from Connor to go up 11-5, and Rohde’s kill would eventually push the lead to 16-8. McGrath’s kill gave Viterbo their largest lead of the game at 23-12 and EOU’s late 7-1 push fell short, with Mitchell putting the set away with a kill from Connor, 25-19.
The fourth set was very back-and-fourth, with 12 ties and five lead changes by the time the score reached 12-12. Eastern Oregon would lead 15-12, but Rohde’s kills kept the V-Hawks close until back-to-back Mountaineer errors helped close the gap to an 18-19 deficit. Eastern Oregon would take their last lead at 22-21 on a Viterbo error, but Rohde answered with another kill to tie the game, Mia Quist took the lead with an ace, EOU’s error put VU up two, then after an attacking error, Rohde ended the game on a kill from Connor to win 25-23.
Winker (.105) and Rohde (.133) would lead all players with 13 kills each, while McGrath (.368) also recorded double digit kills with 10. Lauryn Sobasky led all players with 28 assists, and Connor put up 20 of her own. Reinhart had a team-high 10 digs, followed by Kenidi McCabe’s eight and Sobasky’s seven. Winker added two solo blocks, while McGrath and Calkins each had four block assists. The V-Hawks hit .149 as a team.
Preslee Johnson led the Mountaineers with 10 kills, McMurtrey added a team-high 20 assists, and Hailey Arritola recorded a game-high 19 digs. Cambree Scott had nine kills while hitting .368, and added two solo blocks and two block assists. The Mountaineers would bounce back from their loss, and defeat #5 Midland (Neb.) 3-0.
In the late game, the V-Hawks would take an early lead 3-1 following a McCabe ace and Sobasky kill, but a quick 7-2 run from the Orediggers gave Montana Tech a, 8-5 lead. MTU errors put Viterbo back up 9-8, but Viterbo answered with errors of their own to go back down 11-9. Rohde’s kill tied the game back at 12-12, but a Alexis Umland-Maureen Jessop block put Montana Tech back up and they wouldn’t look back, leading the rest of the set, going up by as much as seven, and taking the first set 25-19.
The second set started with 10 ties and seven lead changes before four straight VU errors gave the Orediggers a 13-10 lead. Multiple MTU errors combined with kills from Kleman, Winker, and McGrath tied the game back at 16-16, and another Kleman kill put Viterbo up 20-18. Montana Tech would tie the game one more time at 23-23, but McGrath’s kill and an MTU attacking error gave the V-Hawks the 25-23 set win.
Reinhart’s ace would but Viterbo up 4-2 early in the third set, but MTU would answer quick, with Maureen Jessop’s back-to-back aces putting Montana Tech up 6-4. The Orediggers would lead by as much as three at 9-12 before Viterbo began to close the gap. Kleman and Calkins teamed up for a block to tie the game at 12-12, and multiple errors by both teams followed by a Winker kill put the V-Hawks up 16-14. The Teams traded nine straight points and a VU error gave the Orediggers a late lead 21-20. Kleman would respond to tie the game, and McGrath’s back-to-back kills from Sobasky and Connor gave the lead back to the V-Hawks. Mitchell’s kill extended the lead, and a Montana Tech error ended the set 25-22 in Viterbo’s favor.
The fourth set started with more early ties and lead changes, with MTU taking the first significant advantage, 9-13, following kills from Taylor Henley and Jessop. Viterbo responded with a 5-0 run, including multiple Winker kills and a Reinhart ace. A kill from Logan Reed ended the run, but another Winker kill started another one, with the V-Hawks taking six out of the next seven volleys and going up 20-15 on an Oredigger error. However, MTU went on a run of their own, tying the game at 20-20. Rohde’s kill ended that run, and Taylor Larson’s ace put Viterbo up 22-20. One more Montana Tech kill left the score at 22-21, but three straight errors, including a Rohde-Calkins block, gave the V-Hawks the set and the game.
The V-Hawks had an even attack, with McGrath (.200), Kleman (.091), and Winker (-.022) each finishing with nine kills, and Rohde (.045) adding seven. Sobasky led the team with 21 assists and Connor was just behind her with16. McCabe recorded a game-high 19 digs, Reinhart had 12, and Winker 11. Mitchell tied a game-high five block assists, and Calkins had three block assists to go with one solo.
Jessop led all players with 13 kills, while Olivia Muir and Henley each had 11. Roslyn Zent had a game-high 39 assists, and Jelena Jablanov recorded 18 digs. Henley also had five block assists and a solo block.
The V-Hawks return to action on Friday at the Big Sky Challenge, taking on Vanguard (Calif.) at 4 p.m, and Northwest (Wash.) at 8 p.m.