Kennadie Clute’s goals for her freshman volleyball season at Montana State were simple: Play and help her team as much as possible.
Check and check.
Clute, a 6-foot-1 outside hitter from Mt. Spokane High, not only leads the Big Sky Conference in kills and points, she’s the top freshman in the nation in both categories.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Clute said in a phone interview Monday. “I have a hard time grasping the concept, too.”
Clute has double-figure kills in all 25 of Montana State’s matches. She has 416 kills, 85 more than second-place Tressa Lyman of Idaho State. Clute has 1,142 attempts, more than one-third of MSU’s total attempts.
“Both of our left-sides get the majority of the attempts,” Bobcats coach Kyle Weindel said. “Other teams know that and we know that they know that. They still have trouble stopping her, which is a credit to what she’s doing and what she’s been able to pick up at this level.”
Clute said she’s improved at “avoiding the blocks and being able to swing where the court is open or off the blockers’ hands.”
The difference from high school to college is considerable, Clute said, with a full class schedule, lifting/conditioning, practice and travel.
“We were on the road nine out of 10 days a couple weeks ago,” she said. “It gets tiring to handle school, volleyball and a social life, but once you get here you get used to it.”
Clute fits right in with MSU’s youthful roster. The Bobcats are 5-20, 3-11 in the Big Sky, but the future looks bright with three freshmen and two sophomores in the starting lineup.
“When we lose it is kind of frustrating but you’re going to go through times when you’re on a team that struggles at first but comes through at the end,” she said. “I’m hoping the end of the season will turn out to be good, as well as the next few seasons.”
Bulldogs chase winning record
It might be time to break out retro uniforms at Gonzaga, which is putting together one of its best WCC seasons in years. The Bulldogs (10-12, 6-7 WCC) are tied for fifth after going 2-0 last week. GU hasn’t won six conference matches in a season since Sean Madden’s 1996 team went 6-8.
“The more history we continue to make, the better,” coach Dave Gantt said. “You can see how this team has grown and as a result so has the program.”
The Bulldogs swept San Francisco and Santa Clara, the first time they’ve swept a pair of WCC foes in the same season since 2001. They’ll go for another sweep when they host Portland on Saturday.
Savannah Blinn (Lewiston High), who had 39 kills in two wins, was named WCC Player of the Week.
North Idaho College swept eighth-ranked College of Southern Idaho on Friday and the Cardinals will have to beat their rivals again if they want to advance to the national tournament for the fourth straight season.
The third-seeded Cardinals open the Region 18 tournament against No. 6 Colorado Northwestern on Friday in Salt Lake City. The winner faces No. 2 CSI in the semifinals. No. 4 Snow and No. 5 Eastern Utah meet in the other half of the bracket with the winner taking on top-seeded Salt Lake. The championship match is Saturday with the top two advancing to nationals.
“We have a short week of preparation before we leave but we feel good about our team and our prospects,” NIC coach Miles Kydd said.
Washington State’s win over Utah on Saturday snapped a six-match losing streak and gave the Cougars their third Pac-12 win, equaling last year’s total. Kyra Holt, named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week after delivering 39 kills in two matches, ranks fifth in aces (32) and seventh in kills per set (3.97) in the conference. … Eastern Washington snapped a four-game losing skid with a road win over Montana State. The Eagles (8-17, 5-9 Big Sky) return home for four straight, beginning with Northern Arizona on Thursday. … Idaho’s Alyssa Schultz leads the WAC with a .370 hitting percentage. The Vandals (14-10, 7-5) entertain Seattle on Friday. … Whitworth (13-13, 7-7 NWC) can secure a winning record with wins Wednesday at Whitman and Friday vs. Linfield in the season finale. Senior Jalana White (Post Falls) leads the Northwest Conference with 391 kills. … SWX will televise Community Colleges of Spokane’s home match vs. Big Bend at 6 p.m. Wednesday.