BOZEMAN — Prior to this year, the Montana State volleyball program never had a national postseason win. But now the Bobcats have made history, winning their way into the "Fab 4" semifinals of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship.
They play at Wichita State on Saturday at noon in their next match for a berth in the title round.
"I think in the postseason, everyone’s been saying this phrase that ‘we ain’t done yet,’ which has been awesome," Bobcats senior outside hitter Kira Thomsen said. "You know especially being on the road, it’s been a running joke with the team, like, 'Okay, when we don’t host, where do we go next?'"
Thomsen was referring to her team’s perseverance as road underdogs this postseason. The Cats haven’t been home since Nov. 18, when they closed their regular season. MSU then lost to Weber State in the championship match of the Big Sky tourney, but earned an at-large berth in the NIVC has haven't lost since.
Every win in the NIVC has been an away game.
In Sacramento, the Bobcats beat Pacific in four sets in the first round, then topped host Sacramento State in another four-set outcome.
Most recently, they took down Wyoming in Laramie for their quarterfinal match in five sets.
"Everybody would love to be at home, right? I think any team would tell you, we’d rather play a home match than a road match," Bobcats coach Matt Houk said. "But there’s something sweet, as well, of going into other people’s gyms and performing at a high level and coming away with a win.”
In the win over Wyoming, Thomsen had 24 kills, three aces, three blocks and ten digs. The standout has been dominant in the postseason.
"I think the team mentally was prepared for a battle," Thomsen said about the Bobcats' mindset going into their game versus Wyoming. "I mean, they’re a physical team. They're a good volleyball team, so we knew we were going to have to fight all night long."
The fell in the first set, but never gave up.
"That first set didn’t start out everything necessarily going our way," Thomsen said.
"And so, for me personally, as a big mental switch of like I've got to take a little heavier load in the passing lane. I’ve got to hit a couple more balls tonight then maybe I would’ve loved to, but I think once I settled in, our whole team really settled in too from that first set and was able to work our way back into that game."
For Houk, the first-year head coach is proud of the team's perseverance, but knew that they were prepared for the high stakes. Houk has so far guided the team to a program record 24 victories.
"I think that teams that end up putting a good body of work together and having a successful season are usually the ones who can navigate the difficult parts of the season well," he said. "I think this group has done that tremendously."
This Bobcats 'ain’t done yet.' They don’t want to lose, they still have things to prove — and they’ve got a special sisterhood that genuinely just wants a few more days to play together.
"We don’t want tomorrow or yesterday to have been our last game, so I think everyone is just enjoying the moment, and it’s kind of made this season so memorable for all of us," Thomsen smiled.
Thomsen also noted the team is staying present in each match, which is how they’re able to continue to win. The Bobcats will wait to focus on competing for the NIVC title if they get past Wichita State.