BOZEMAN, Mont.-- Montana State fended off visiting North Dakota in a five-set (25-18, 21-25, 25-15, 22-25, 15-11) Big Sky Conference affair Saturday night. The Bobcats, who won a five-set thriller in the conference opener between the teams back in September, took the season series thanks to a quick start in the deciding set Saturday.
"Montana State is one of the best serving teams in the conference," UND head coach Ashley Hardee said. "We struggled siding out at an efficient clip and gave up too many runs."
It was an 8-3 run to start the match that got the home team out in front early and it never looked back in earning a 25-18 win in the first set.
UND (11-12, 6-6 Big Sky) countered with a win in the second set to even the match. That set started ominously for UND as well, however. MSU (12-8, 6-6) ran out to a 4-0 lead and North Dakota had to rally to tie it at 8-all. A kill by Lexi Robinson-- one of her team-high-tying 16-- sparked a quick 8-4 spurt and UND took the lead for good in that set. One of Ronni Munkeby's 16 kills put the final touch on a 25-21 victory as the teams headed to the locker rooms all square.
In the third set, a 9-3 run by MSU closed out the frame for a 25-15 win as the 'Cats took a two-sets-to-one advantage. MSU hit .400 in that set while holding UND to .038 in the lone lopsided set.
UND did not back down, outlasting Montana State in the fourth set for a 25-22 win. That set featured five tie scores and the lead changed hands three times. With the score 21-17 in favor of the Bobcats, UND rattled off six straight points to garner the lead. Munkeby powered home the final two points to square the match at two sets apiece.
UND scored six of seven points to dig out of a 7-1 hole in the decider, but the Bobcats scored five straight after that North Dakota run to gain a commanding 13-7 advantage. The momentum swung back to UND's side after three consecutive points got it back within three. The home team was up to the task, however, responding to grab the 15-11 victory in the deciding set.
The Bobcats swept the season series and pulled back into a tie for fifth place in the Big Sky standings with eight matches to play.
Munkeby and Robinson each had 16 kills to lead UND while junior Lisa Parlich chipped-in a dozen. Nikki Husfeldt had 54 assists for North Dakota. MSU got 17 kills each from Taylar Barney and Sarah Horton in the win.
UND returns home to host first-place Idaho State Thursday night at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. First serve is slated for 7:00 p.m.