The Dominion Post  

WVU tops Temple, 3-0, in volleyball tournament

Created on:   Wed, Nov 29, 2017   9:53 PM

Last modified:   Wed, Nov 29, 2017   9:53 PM

The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN — They are survivors of sorts, Morgan Montgomery and Gianna Gotterba, of a time of transition for WVU.

Not just for the volleyball team — for which Gotterba and Montgomery starred Nov. 29, sending the Mountaineers to a 3-0 (25-23, 25-18, 25-12) victory against Temple to advance to the Elite Eight of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC) — but for the entire school.

The end of their freshmen season saw then-coach Jill Kramer bolt for TCU, leaving a period of three months in which most of the remaining players transferred before head coach Reed Sunahara was even hired.

“We went three months without any real direction,” said Montgomery, who recorded 12 kills against the Owls (20-10). “We needed a new coach, but also a new athletic director, so that had to happen first.

“It was really hard, but we were still dedicated to get better. We still worked out. We still practiced. Our one focus was volleyball.”

Montgomery and Gotterba are the final two of those who remained, and the significance of finally playing in a postseason tournament is not lost on them.

Not after going winless in Big 12 play as sophomores and then improving to just three conference wins as juniors.

“To be where we are right now compared to the past two years, it’s something we’re very proud of,” Gotterba said. “We’re so thankful that this team is all on the same page with what we’re doing. In the past, it’s been kind of iffy. To have a team like this going into this tournament is very cherishing, and we’re blessed to be able to do it with this team.”

It showed in their play. Montgomery’s kills came with conviction.

Gotterba’s 13 digs came with determination.

One of her saves came while nearly running over her teammates in the WVU bench area.

She somehow avoided a collision, then put the ball back into play while nearly running into the tunnel leading to the team’s locker room.

Turns out, that is becoming the norm for Gotterba.

“I had one a couple of matches ago — on the other side of the court — where I went into the tunnel and got it,” Gotterba said. “Those are probably my two favorite plays.”

“They don’t want the season to end. They’re having fun now,” Sunahara said of his seniors. “They’ve worked really hard up to this point. Especially playing at home, they don’t want this to end. It’s special for them to be in this situation, because this is their last hurrah.”

Not yet.

WVU (20-12) recorded its first 20-win season since 2013 and the school’s 13th overall — the program began in 1974.

The Mountaineers will host a third-round match, at 6 p.m. Monday, against an opponent that has yet to be determined.

The Colgate side of the bracket — featuring Colgate, Towson, Syracuse and Albany — will just start first-round matches today.

That matters little to Montgomery and Gotterba. The Mountaineers could be going up against the Harlem Globetrotters and they would still play with a world of confidence.

That’s what survivors do; survive and then thrive.

“Gia and I are the last two from that era before Reed,” Montgomery said. “I think it means a lot for us to end our careers going into a postseason tournament. That’s a chance we never had before and to think two years ago, we started with six people. The program had to be built from the ground up.

“This is something that is our own. We could put a banner up in the Coliseum. That’s kind of what we’re going for.”