Fairbanks sweeps MSU Billings for first conference win

(MSU Billings)

BILLINGS – Alaska Fairbanks slammed 47 kills against the Montana State University Billings volleyball team and handed the Yellowjackets a 3-0 loss at Alterowitz Gymnasium Saturday afternoon. The Nanooks broke up their own seven match losing streak and put MSUB on a run of six straight losses.

Alaska outpaced the Yellowjackets on offense in the first set and posted a .297 hitting percentage compared to .195 for MSUB. Markie Miller had five kills in the first set for Alaska and Emily Moorhead made four. The set began even; then the teams tied the score at nine, ten, eleven, and twelve before Alaska Fairbanks began pulling away. Riley Moore made an energizing kill for the ‘Jackets who trailed 19-14 but it was not enough and the Nanooks took the first frame 25-18.

The second set was also close from the start and the lead changed hands six times. MSUB had an early advantage 9-4 but costly errors allowed Alaska back into contention and a 5-0 run ensued to draw the score even at 10. Kylee Clarke helped the ‘Jackets with a service ace and Miranda McConnell jumped up for a solo kill to help MSUB briefly hold the lead 17-15. In the end the Nanooks’ attack was too strong and with the score tied 22-22, Alaska rattled off three straight points to take the second set 25-22.

Alaska Fairbanks continued their barrage of kills in the third set but MSUB fought back for a 10-10 tie and eventually a 20-15 lead. For the second time in the match, Alaska Fairbanks came up with a 5-0 run to even the score. The Nanooks earned set point after Miller and Moorhead made a critical block for UAF. Bayli Monck put a kill past two blockers near the referee’s stand to keep the match alive but the visitors sealed the match 26-24 after a block as assisted on by Tatum Upchurch and Moorhead.

The Nanooks spread out their offense and top kill numbers were posted by Miller (10), Lahra Weber (9), Tatum Upchurch (8), and Kim Wong (8). Makena Overbey’s 17 digs were a major contributor to the Nanooks’ success. Tatum Upchurch and Mica Shenglen also had strong efforts on the Alaska back row and the duo posted 12 digs each.

For MSUB, Maddi Vigil and Bayli Monck led the way with nine kills apiece. Vigil missed her ninth double-double by just one kill and also added 11 digs. Izela Alvarez made 12 digs and Kylee Clarke was the leading setter with 21 assists.

Hitting percentage contributed to the loss for the ‘Jackets in both matches at home this weekend. Against the Nanooks, the Yellowjackets hit .151 as a team and .125 in the third set alone. Vigil had the best percentage on the team at .226.

It has been a season of two streaks for Montana State Billings. The team started 6-0 for the first time since 2011 but all six wins were on the road against non-conference opponents. Since their last victory on August 31st the team has struggled against Great Northwest Athletic Conference foes and are now 6-6 on the year, including losses to Alaska Anchorage, Western Oregon, Concordia, and Alaska.

It will be up to the team’s three senior leaders to get the squad back in sync before Tuesday when Montana State Billings makes the short drive across town to face non-conference rival Rocky Mountain College at 7 p.m. on September 18. MSUB plays their next GNAC opponent on September 20 on the road against Seattle Pacific University.

Alaska Fairbanks (3-8, 1-3 GNAC) continues their road trip next weekend when they play Western Washington and Simon Fraser.

THE BUZZ: Kylee Clarke was named St. Vincent Healthcare player of the game for Montana State Billings. Clarke made 21 assists, four digs, two blocks, and one kill for the ‘Jackets in the losing effort. Montana State Billings is now 29-28 all-time against Alaska Fairbanks (21-12 home, 8-15 away, 0-1 neutral). Alaska Fairbanks has won two matches in a row against MSUB dating back to November, 2017.

NEXT UP: MSU Billings steps out of conference for a crosstown rivalry game at Rocky Mountain College, Tuesday at 7:00 p.m.

Casey Conlon

Casey Conlon

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