Southern Utah University’s volleyball team recorded the squad’s first ever Big Sky tournament win Wednesday night, defeating No. 3 seed Montana State University in a 3-2 upset.
This win continues a strong campaign for the Thunderbirds, as their 8-7 record gave them their first winning season since 2010. This victory also pushes the T-Birds’ win streak to five games now, as they prepare to take on the No. 2 seed University of Northern Colorado in the semi-finals.
Pulling off the win is an impressive feat for the SUU, and it was in large part due to the efforts of junior Andreanna McKee, who had 13 kills and eight blocks. Her play in the fifth set pushed Southern Utah over the top, as she seemed to be a part of every play.
Bridget Triplett led the Thunderbirds in kills and aces with 14 and three, respectively, and also pitched in seven blocks. Corrin Peterson had herself a great night as well, as she finished with 37 assists.
The match started off rough for Southern Utah, as Montana State jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first set. SUU finally responded with four points of their own, and the set was back and forth after that. The T-Birds found their rhythm towards the end and won the first set on a 9-4 run after back-to-back errors from Montana State.
The Bobcats started off the second set even stronger, as they took advantage of a handful of Thunderbird errors and jumped out to an 11-1 lead. The gap was too large to close in the second set as the Thunderbirds just couldn’t seem to cut it down. It was an all-around effort for Montana State, as they seemed to score however they wanted.
The third set was much closer than the first two, as McKenzie Dowell, Stacey Hone, and Triplett stepped up and scored a majority of the Thunderbirds’ points. Even with the better play offensively, they still committed more errors than the Bobcats which helped Montana State win the set.
The fourth set was a nail-biter, as the two teams traded blows like a heavyweight boxing match. After the Bobcats scored the first point, Stacey Hone had a huge block to give the Thunderbirds some much-needed energy. Elisa Lago followed up with a kill to really get the T-Birds going.
Lago and Hone continued to come up big with the game on the line, refusing to let the Bobcats run away with the win. Hone scored two of the final three points for SUU as they won the set and tied up the match 2-2.
In the final set, the two teams again were neck and neck as Montana State went up 7-4. Then, the Thunderbirds went on a dominating 9-1 after McKee and Triplett would not let anything over the net. With SUU up 14-10, the Bobcats scored two points in a row in an effort to come back. Thunderbird head coach Pete Hoyer called a timeout to regroup his team, and it was Dowell who scored the fifteenth point to win the match for SUU.
The Thunderbirds now advance to the semi-finals for the first time ever in order to play UNCO, who just came off a 3-0 win over Idaho. The match starts at 7 p.m. and can be watched on PlutoTv.
Story by: Christian Esparza
Photo courtesy of SUU Athletic Department Strategic Communication