The Montana State volleyball team’s impressive season came to an abrupt finish this past Friday when the Bobcats fell to top seeded Northern Colorado in the Big Sky conference tournament. The Blue and Gold enjoyed their best season since 2012, when the Cats matched this season’s record. Senior sensations Allyssa Rizzo, Evi Wilson and Sydney Mathison will end their incredible careers in Bozeman with a 15-14 overall record this season, which places them at fourth in the Big Sky conference. This is an impressive feat considering that Rizzo, Wilson and Mathison’s freshman season concluded with a 5-20 overall record.
These remarkable seniors have set the standard for the fresh faces beginning to make their names in Shroyer Gymnasium. In an interview with Rizzo earlier this season, she told the Exponent, “We have been telling the younger girls to treat every season like it’s the one. You have to believe that every year. It’s exhausting, it’s a lot of pressure, and it’s going to feel like too much. It would be easier to back down, but you just have to fully invest yourself because you blink your eyes and you’re a senior.” Rizzo, the Big Sky conference Libero of the Year, proved to the rest of the country that Bozeman can produce one of the nation’s top players as she finished this season ranked seventh in the NCAA in digs per set. In addition, Rizzo will be leaving MSU as the program’s all time leader in digs.
Rizzo’s senior counterparts, Wilson and Mathison, also capped off their terrific careers with strong performances in their final games. Wilson’s senior season will be tough for the Bobcat faithful to forget, as she led the squad with 371 kills this season. This placed her within the top five in the Big Sky and earned her a spot on the Big Sky all-tournament team. Mathison’s role has been crucial to the Cats success all season and head coach Daniel Jones recognized her effort after Friday’s match, sharing that “Sydney was such an incredible leader.” Wilson will graduate with a degree in Business Finance, and Mathison will walk away with a degree in Psychology.
This year’s team has made it clear to the rest of the Big Sky that this program is only beginning its rise. Shroyer Gym was packed to the rafters on mostgame nights, something that used to only happen when the Montana Grizzlies visited town. The increased average attendance is expected to persist. Freshman outside hitter, Kira Thomsen, is coming off an outstanding rookie season for the Bobcats and looks to be a future force in the conference. She joins Bozeman native junior setter Allie Lynch as part of a talented team that fans can look forward to watching next year.
Jones understands the talent returning but also recognizes the significance this senior class holds, saying on Friday, “It will be a challenge, but we have a lot of talent coming back. Where the leadership and toughness comes from is what we will need to figure out." MSU Athletic Director, Leon Costello, tweeted about the team’s season, concluding with “the foundation has been laid and the legacy has been built.” Thanks to the hard work put in by this year's senior class, along with Coach Jones and his staff, Montana State volleyball is a program obviously headed in the right direction.