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Mead trio leading way for Carroll College volleyball

Paige Montgomery, left, Jonni Dorr, middle and Natalie Kassa (gold jersey) celebrate after a point in a 3-0 sweep over Dickinson State. The three have played together for over eight years, first at Mead High School before all three signed to play at Carroll College in Montana. (Jerek Wolcott/Courtesy of Carroll College / Courtesy of Carroll College)
Paige Montgomery, left, Jonni Dorr, middle and Natalie Kassa (gold jersey) celebrate after a point in a 3-0 sweep over Dickinson State. The three have played together for over eight years, first at Mead High School before all three signed to play at Carroll College in Montana. (Jerek Wolcott/Courtesy of Carroll College / Courtesy of Carroll College)
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HELENA – “Panther Points,” they call them.

That’s when Jonni Dorr, Natalie Kassa and Paige Montgomery, a trio of Carroll College senior volleyball players from Mead, all have a hand in scoring a point for the Saints.

With Kassa, the libero, playing the back row; Dorr, the Saints’ primary setter; and middle hitter Montgomery, there are many times Carroll possessions are handled entirely by them.

“We call them ‘Panther Points,’ ” Kassa said. “When it happens, we always get very excited and always make sure we all know it. Every kill we get is awesome but there is something cool about playing with a group you have been with since you were kids.”

They were so effective last weekend as the NAIA’s 16th-ranked Saints improved to 11-2 with a 4-0 sweep through tough field at a Labor Day weekend tournament in Southern California that the Mead grads swept Frontier Conference weekly awards. Dorr was named Setter of the Week, Kassa the Defensive Player of the Week and Montgomery the Offensive Player of the Week.

“Their leadership has really shined this season,” Carroll coach Moe Boyle said of the only seniors on the team. “They have very high expectations of what they want to accomplish and they will not accept any less. They came from a championship-caliber program at Mead and they have instilled that drive into this team.”

In four years in the Mead program, the girls experienced a state championship, a second-place finish and a third, capped by a disappointing five-set loss in the 4A title match as seniors.

“I am so proud of everything that we have done together from high school and here at Carroll,” Kassa said. “We all signed at different times and for different reasons but I am so glad that we all ended up together.

“We’ve grown as volleyball players alongside each other,” Kassa added. “We’ve learned everything together. When I play defense alongside Jonni I know exactly what balls she is going to take and which ones she wants me to take. Playing with Paige, I know where she is going to hit.

“We have played together for so long and you pick up on those tendencies.”

The girls and their Saints teammates have a specific goal – a second straight Frontier Conference title and the school’s first berth in the NAIA National Championships since they arrived on campus.

“This team is going to go as far as these three seniors take us,” Boyle said. “The chemistry, camraderie and attitude are all tremendous this season and all of that starts with them. We are a very confident team right now and that is something you can’t build overnight.”

“Our goal this season is to make it to the national tournament,” Kassa said, “but whatever happens, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.”

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