By Ryan Divish
Contrary to many people's beliefs, there is more than just football going on in the Frontier Conference in the fall. Women's volleyball and golf are also in full swing as well.
After an extensive non-conference season, teams begin Frontier Conference play this weekend. If the conference season is anything like the non-conference season, good luck on trying to pick winners. Unlike football, most of the teams in the conference have played each other at least once and sometimes as many as three times during the non-conference. Despite all of the competition between teams in the conference, the conference picture itself, is about as clear as the Milk River.
Carroll College, nationally ranked and everyone's preseason favorite, hasn't played like the favorite. The Fighting Saints, 8-9, have lost matches to Montana Tech, UM-Western and Rocky Mountain College already this year. Tech, 11-7, has been solid this season thanks to stellar defensive play. Their non-conference play has many coaches around the league re-thinking their conference favorites.
The team with the toughest luck so far has to the University of Great Falls. The Argos, coached by former University of Montana volleyball coach Dick Scott, are still looking for that elusive first win of the season. The Argos will definitely be circling their calendars on Oct. 5. That day UGF will face Westminster College in Great Falls. Westminster, 2-12 on the season, is in the midst of a seven match losing streak and has only four conference wins in the past four years. The Griffins have defeated the Argos earlier this year at the UM-Western tourney.
Montana-Western's Katie Stokes and Becky Hancock of Montana Tech won weekly awards for Frontier Conference volleyball.
Stokes won the conference's player of the week award. She finished the week with 47 kills, 36 digs and 13 blocks in four Montana-Western victories over the University of Victoria, Carroll College, Montana State-Northern and the University of Great Falls.The senior from Choteau also had two aces for the week.
Hancock won the setter award for the week, after racking up 165 assists last week in five Tech matches. She averaged 10.3 sets per game, helping the Oredigger squad to an 11-7 record thus far, officials said. The sophomore from Livingston also recorded one ace, nine blocks, 12 kills and 37 digs for the week.
Carroll College had their homecoming festivities spoiled by Division II Central Washington. Special teams plagued the Saints as they gave up a pair of punt returns for touchdowns, while former KG standout Rhett Crites missed an early field goal by mere inches and also had another field goal blocked.
"We gave away 19 points," Carroll head coach Mike Van Diest told the Helena Independent Record. "A blocked field goal and 16 points on their score, so that's a 19-point differential. That's a heartbreaker. We can't give away points to good teams. The kicking game or special teams, that's what really hurt us today."
Carroll's defense was solid holding the Wildcats to 287 yards of total offense, 263 yards below their season average of 570. But that defense took a hit, when starting defensive back and Havre High grad Jarrod Wirt went down with a separated collarbone. The Saints are off this weekend, but Wirt is unlikely to play when the Saints return to action on Sept. 28 when they travel to Havre to take on MSU-Northern.
Despite the loss, Carroll is still nationally ranked in NAIA. The Fighting Saints are ranked twelfth after falling from being ranked third.
Montana Tech suffered its second loss of the season as the Diggers fell to Whitworth College 35-14. Tech was tied with Whitworth 14-14 at halftime, however the Pirates played a near flawless second half outgaining Tech 219-106 yards in total offense.
"We played poorly as a team,'' Montana Tech head coach Bob Green told the Montana Standard. "I don't have any excuses. Whitworth College played very well. We were beaten in all phases of the game. When a team plays as poorly as we did, I'll be the first to admit that it's on the head guy.''
Tech, 1-2, will finish up its three game road trip on Saturday as the Diggers travel to Havre to take on MSU-Northern.
Even though Tech started slowly, the Diggers aren't packing in the season. In fact, they are used to this. Last year, Tech started the season 1-2 but finished the season 8-3 overall and 7-1 in the Frontier Conference.
"Last year, we were 1-2 after three games and we picked it up," Green said. "We've got to worry about the Northern game. I've got confidence in our guys. We live and breathe together. We're disappointed to lose, sure, but we've got to pick up right now and just go. We're going to get ready for Northern. The good news is we've got a game next week.''
Rocky Mountain College players swept the Frontier Conference football player-of-the-week honors.
This week's awards go to quarterback Benton Johnson, outside linebacker Justin Helvik and place kicker Jeremy Duprey.
Johnson, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound freshman from Billings, completed 26 of 50 passes for 321 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in Rocky's 45-6 victory over Montana State-Northern.
Helvik, a 6-0, 225-pound sophomore from Wibaux, recorded nine solo tackles, four assists, one-half sack and also broke up a pass play against the Lights.
Duprey, a 6-3, 185-pound sophomore from Sheridan, Wyo., made all six of his point-after kicks and added a 25-yard field goal in Rocky's first win of the season.
Look for Havre native Matt Kegel to be on the field instead of the sidelines on Saturday. Kegal, the back-up quarterback Washington State, is hoping to see some increased playing time when the Cougars take on Montana State.
Kegel, who usually plays at least two series every game, did not play in Wazzu's loss to Ohio State last week. However, he played quite a bit in relief of Jason Gesser last year when Washington State downed MSU 53-28 and hopes to do so again this year. Kegal completed 4 of 5 passes for 46 yards and a touchdown in that game.
I remember being kind of nervous early,'' Kegel, a cousin of former Washington State quarterback Ryan Leaf told the Great Falls Tribune. Montana State played us tough. They had a good quarterback and a lot of good receivers. Hopefully, this year we can jump on them early and I'll be able to get in there and do some stuff.''
Amber Griffith of Rocky Mountain College got her first career hole-in-one on during Tuesday's final round of the Carroll College Invitational. Griffith picked up the ace on hole number 12 of Green Meadows Country Club in Helena. However, Amber's sister, Ashley had the last laugh by beating Amber and three other girls home take home medalist honors.