MSU Volleyball has heartbreaking homestand

Sarah Horton (#12) goes up for the kill. Photo by Brandon Kowalski

The MSU Volleyball team (11-7, 5-5) didn’t have much luck in Shroyer Gym this week — as they lost to Sacramento State on Saturday and then to the arch-rival Grizzlies on Monday night.

Sacramento State (7-12, 3-7) came to Bozeman in desperate need of a conference win, but the Cats easily took the first set 25-18, posting a .281 attack mark. The second set didn’t go as smoothly, as the Cats’ attack percentage fell to a dismal .054. They lost the second set 14-25.

The Cats improved their attack for the third set, and even seemed to be having some fun when senior Taylar Barney smacked a strong kill to take a 17-14 lead and the whole team broke out in a dance. The crowd went wild and it looked like the Cats had their groove back, but the scrappy Sacramento State players would not be denied.

A kill by junior outside-hitter Sarah Horton gave MSU a set point at 24-23, but the Cats couldn’t get the big play they needed down the stretch and lost the third set 26-28.

After the devastating third set, the Cats again came out strong, taking another 17-14 lead on an ace by Horton. Horton had an incredible game with 20 kills, 12 digs, four blocks, and three aces, but it wasn’t enough to pull out the victory.

Though the Cats had four set points, leading 24-20, Sacramento State won five straight points and foiled the Cats chances of a comeback, winning the fourth and deciding set 27-25.

“We had such good weeks in practice,” said Head Coach Kyle Weindel, “and it is frustrating to see these outcomes in matches when we are favored to win.”

It looked as though the Cats would get their revenge on the Grizzlies after the first two sets on Monday night. The Cats put up stellar attack marks of .341 and .405 in their first two sets, winning them handily 25-16 and 25-17. At halftime, the Spirit of the West Drumline played a great version of “Peanut Butter Jelly Time,” and the crowd of 1,538 was rocking when the Cats took the to court for the third set.

The third set was a disaster. The MSU attack mark fell to .073 and they lost the set 20-25. In the fourth, back-to-back kills by Horton pushed the Cats’ lead to 15-11. The Griz won the next three points before Barney smashed a kill to make it 16-14 Cats. From there it was back and forth until another kill by Horton tied it at 24, and the Griz scored the next two points for the set win, 26-24.

The fifth set culminated in another mess for the Cats, as a red card was issued to Jennifer Lundquist. Down 7-12, during a timeout, Coach Weindel stressed the importance of not giving points away, and the Cats responded by pulling within three on a Barney block,10-13.

The Griz didn’t waste any more time and won the next two points sealing the win in the shortened fifth set, 15-10. Horton led the way with another double-double for the Cats, her ninth of the season, serving up 38 kills and 15 digs. The 38 kills is the highest by anyone in the Big Sky Conference this year.

“I give the Griz credit for not rolling over and allowing us to win in three, but at the end of the day we have to look at ourselves and evaluate our performance,” Weindel said. “The true test will be to see how we come out and play on Friday; that will be the bar to measure how the team is holding up.”

The Cats host Northern Colorado on Friday, Oct. 19, and North Dakota on Saturday, Oct. 20, at 7 p.m.