Idaho volleyball proved that they can overcome rough performances on Thursday.
The Vandals (16-10, BSC 11-4) battled through a five-set match to defeat University of Montana (7-21, 2-13 BSC) 19-25, 25-15, 25-27, 30-28, 19-17.
Most of Idaho’s offense came from familiar faces. Sophomore outside hitter Kaela Straw finished with 23 kills on a .417 hitting percentage, and fellow sophomore Sarah Sharp contributed 14 kills.
Idaho started off very slow. The Vandals allowed the Grizzlies to jump out to an 8-0 lead in the first set, assisted by six unforced Vandal errors in the first eight points. Idaho would also concede five service errors before the set was over, giving Montana a serious advantage.
“I am disappointed in the way we came out to play tonight,” head coach Debbie Buchanan said in a news release. “I felt like mentally we were not really prepared. Montana played great and did a really good job of keeping us out of system.”
Idaho finally got their first lead of the night well into the second set. The Vandals took a 5-4 lead, but were eventually able to parlay an 8-1 run into a 23-15 lead that led to a second set win.
The rest of the sets were much closer contests.
Montana rode 6-3 and 7-1 runs to a 20-14 lead as the set progressed. Idaho’s bench got substantially fired up, and the referee issued the bench a yellow card which only inspired the team. The girls roared back to a 22-20 lead, but were unable to hold the lead.
The Grizzlies were able to keep the momentum going in the fourth set. Down 15-9, the Vandals took a timeout that changed the game. Idaho came out of the break on a 11-4 run to tie the match.
“When you look at the timeout we took down 15-9, we were able to regroup and take the set,” Buchanan said. “That shows a lot of character.”
Sophomore DeVonne Ryter and Sarah Sharp put Idaho on top 22-21, but the teams traded almost a dozen set points. Redshirt freshman Paige Rupiper finished the set and gave the Vandals the 30-28 set win and tied the match at two sets apiece.
Montana would not go quietly in the final set either. The Vandals needed five match points to put the Grizzlies away for good, and a kill from Sharp and an unforced Montana error finished the match with a 19-17 final score.
Sophomore Haylee Mathis led the team with a team-high 56 kills and added 11 digs. Ryter contributed double-digit blocks and a career-high eight blocks. Junior Alycia Wodke and sophomore Delaney Hopen paced the team with 22 and 16 blocks, respectively.
“The fact that we stayed neck and neck in game five was huge. Luckily, we have a little more experience in winning those kinds of sets and I think that helped us,” Buchanan said. “I think the fact that we were able to battle out and be aggressive towards the end of the match — to fight for it and make some big plays was huge.”
Idaho’s last regular season match will take place 6 p.m. Nov. 11th against Montana State. The Big Sky Conference Tournament starts November 16. Jonah Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jonahpbaker