BOZEMAN — The Montana State volleyball team hit a season-high .325 from the field, while holding Eastern Washington to .119 as the Bobcats earned their first straight sweep with a 25-21, 25-14, 25-18 victory over the Eagles in the Big Sky Conference opener for both squads on Thursday night at Shroyer Gym.
Montana State (5-8, 1-0) got a big boost from junior middle blocker Emma Pence, who was sidelined last week with an illness. Pence finished with 12 kills and a career-high .632 attack mark. She added a match-high six blocks and two aces.
“I think playing the non-conference schedule that we did set us up for our performance tonight,” said acting MSU head coach Cole Aiazzi. “We’ve had to hit better shots and we’ve had to be cleaner.
“For Pence to have 18 points as a middle is impressive,” Aiazzi added. “She was doing it all out there. She came into this match really hungry, and she has a vibe about her that says, ‘We want to do big things in the Big Sky this year,’ and she’s ready to lead that charge.”
MSU jumped out to an early 14-9 advantage in the opening set on a Courtney Weatherby kill. Eastern Washington (5-8, 0-1) responded to take a 19-18 lead, but the Bobcats answered with three consecutive points and took the first set on a pence kill.
The Bobcats had their most efficient offensive attack in the second set, out-hitting EWU .353 to .081. Weatherby led MSU in the second frame with six kills and seven digs.
A Jourdain Klein kill in the third set gave MSU an 11-7 lead. Eastern Washington would get no closer than three points the remainder of the game.
“A win like this builds momentum and confidence,” Aiazzi said. “Our girls’ execution tonight was very high, and I felt we were very assertive pretty much the whole time.”
Weatherby finished with a team-high 13 kills, while Klein also hit double-figure kills with 10. Sophomore setter Audrey Hofer dished out 38 assists, while adding four kills and six digs.
Defensively, MSU had four players in double-digit digs, led by Lauren Lindseth 19, and Maci Abshier, Madilyn Siebler and Weatherby with 11, apiece.
Montana State will play at defending Big Sky champion Northern Colorado on Saturday night.