Same Destination, Different Journey

15 03 2011

Senior guard Stephanie Stender was named Conference Tournament MVP after averaging over 13 points and 7 rebounds a game.

March 15, 2011

Despite Montana’s rich history of NCAA appearances (18 coming into this season), much of this season didn’t look like another return was prominent for the ladies.

Sure they had some bright spots during the season.  The team rode the momentum from their upset over conference rival Montana State to a 6-game conference win streak during February.

By the season’s end however, their endeavors were not as successful.  The team dropped three of it’s final four conference games to close out the regular season, giving them a tough task as the #4 seed in the Big Sky Conference tournament.

But apparently nobody mentioned  anything about that difficulty to these girls… more likely they just didn’t care.  The team cruised past Idaho State 66-53, took care of Northern Colorado 55-46, and then held on in the championship 62-58 over #1 seed Portland State in Portland.

Reasons?

1. Head Coach Robin Selvig hasn’t won over 700 games by luck.

2. The freshmen (such as Lexie Nelson, Jordan Sullivan, and Torry Hill) have been surprisingly clutch and ready to play.

3.  Senior Stephanie Stender has been a consistent force for the team all season, and really took over some clutch/leadership roles in the conference tourney.

So what’s next? UCLA on Saturday afternoon in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Spokane, WA.

The contest will follow the early game of Saturday’s two-game session between No. 6 Iowa (22-8) and No. 11 Gonzaga (28-4). The Hawkeyes and Bulldogs will play at 2 p.m. (MT).The first-round winners will meet Monday at 7:30 p.m. (MT) for the opportunity to advance to the round of 16.

Montana (18-14) is making its third appearance at the NCAA tournament in the last four years and the program’s 19th overall.

UCLA (27-4), one of the tournament’s at-large selections, lost to just two teams this season: LSU and Stanford.UCLA is making its second straight trip to the NCAA tournament and its 11th overall.

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Grizzlies Favored to Win PAC-10

16 12 2010

Senior Brian Qvale scored a new career high against the Beavers with 27 points

December 16, 2010

Well okay… maybe that headline is getting a little carried away… but after going 2-0 against PAC-10 teams this season it certainly isn’t an unwarranted question (putting as at 3-1 against PAC-10 foes in the past two seasons). The UM mens basketball team took care of business at home last night against Oregon State 71-66 four a sixth win in our past eight games.

This win comes less than two weeks after Montana’s convincing 66-57 victory over UCLA in Pauley Pavillion.  To be honest, I’m not surprised at all by this early season successes.  When the Griz are playing well I don’t see many teams we can’t contend with.

Big man Brian Qvale is averaging over 15 points and 8 boards a game and is everything a coach can ask for as a defender and a leader.  Qvale is also posting an impressive 3.6 blocks per game (as he approaches the all-time conference and team records for career blocks).  Off the court he’s a great guy whom I had an opportunity to do a profile on earlier this month.  Qvale locks down the post-game and is probably the most valuable big man in the entire conference.

Meanwhile our point guard play out of sophomore Will Cherry hasn’t been too shabby either.  He only leads the nation in steals with 4.2 per game and leads the team in scoring with 16 ppg.  And he is a ridiculously good defender! I already gave you the steal numbers but he’s more than that.  In our zone defense he’s all over every opponent on the perimeter.  Last night against the Beavers he seemed to get a piece of a pass nearly every other time down the floor, and yet his crazy quickness comes with an equally impressive level of self control; he’s only averaging two personal fouls a game.  The only possible thing the team can ask for more of from Cherry would be his numbers at the charity stripe as he’s making just 62% of his free throws through the first ten games of the season.

The team as a whole is just a few free throws from posting an 8-2 record early on (close calls to Portland and San Francisco have us sitting at 6-4) and we’re still two weeks out from opening up conference play.  Keep your eyes on the Grizzlies… and a possible 2nd straight NCAA tournament appearance.





Grizzly Football Season Ends Early

22 11 2010

November 21, 2010

For the first time in 18 years, the Montana Grizzlies will not be competing in the FCS playoffs.  The Grizzlies extinguished their chances of a playoff berth after falling to their rival Montana State 21-16 at Washington Grizzly Stadium yesterday.

And although the team has plenty of excuses such as losing 17 seniors from last year’s team and undergoing a coaching and scheming overhaul, the team will most remember the untimely mistakes it made on a frigid November day against its bitter rival.  Montana had three redzone turnovers, two of which came with 5-yards of the endzone.  And so despite the Grizzly defense shutting out the Cats in the second half, Montana’s offense couldn’t find any points in the last three quarters of play.

In another bitter storyline, senior runningback Chase Reynolds finished just three yards shy of the all-time Grizzly rushing record.  Reynolds rushed for 180 yards and a touchdown in the game off of 21 carries.  He finishes his brilliant collegiate career with 4,067 rushing yards.  He also holds school records with 59 total touchdowns and 52 rushing touchdowns.

Montana ended the game with slim hopes of getting an at large playoff berth into the 2010 FCS playoffs.  Those hopes were dashed this morning when the selection show revealed a 20-team playoff bracket that did not include the Grizzlies.





Busy Fall Season

6 10 2010

October 5, 2010

Between my busyness and my laziness it’s been tough to find motivation to post lately.  I attribute a lot of it also to the fact that it’s tough to know when to post when there are so many work and sports related things going on every day… it all tends to run together.

In KECI-related news, we’ve lost our fearless leader (sports director) Jake Zivin to a larger market as he’s now reporting in Eugene, Oregon.  For the three weeks he was gone it was just Kayla (Anderson) and me holding up the sports department.  However just a couple weeks ago our newest member joined the team from Fargo in Zach Borg.

In the world of the Grizzlies we’ve had a tough start to the season following that wallop over Western State.  We proceeded to lose our next two road games (to tough opponents in Cal Poly and Eastern Washington).  Both losses were close games but the skid marked the first time since 2002 the Grizzlies had lost two straight regular season games.  We’ve since recovered with wins over Sacramento State (28-25) and Northern Colorado (30-7).  Unfortunately in the game against Sacramento State we lost Walter Payton Award candidate Andrew Selle for the season after sustaining a career-ending injury to his throwing arm (torn rotator cuff).  The senior quarterback out of Billings (Billings West High School) ended his outstanding four-year career at Montana with a record of 14-3 as a starter.  He is ranked 10th in school history in career passing yards (4,131) and in total offense (4,217 yards).

Meanwhile, former Grizzly Marc Mariani reached a spectacular milestone this past Sunday against the Denver Broncos as the return man took a kickoff 98 yards for his first NFL touchdown.  Unfortunately his Titans fell by a final of 26-20.  Griz Nation hopes (and is confident that) the score is just the first of many for the outstanding athlete out of Havre, Montana.

On a more personal note,  I had the pleasure to meet and talk with sportscasting legend Brent Musburger today in the University Journalism school.  He is one of the nicest and most sincere men I’ve ever met and it was a great experience to listen and learn from him talk about his career.  Meanwhile I’ve also been busy making weekly video stories on various topics including everything from UM Baseball tryouts to a profile on Grizzly runningback Peter Nguyen.





Grizzlies Destroy Mountaineers in Home Opener

5 09 2010

Jordan Tripp's Early 22-yard Interception Return Sparked a Record Performance by the Griz Defense

September 5, 2010

Coming into the 2010 season, things were very different for Montana Grizzly football.  The team has a new head coach (Robin Pflugrad) and many new players, however one thing is the same from last year…they opened up their season hosting Western State College at Washington Grizzly Stadium.

For the first time in my Griz football spectating career (which now totals 28 games), I spent the entirety of yesterday’s game on the field, shooting the game with Kayla for KECI.

And the Grizzlies did not disappoint myself nor the home crowd.  Montana was up 21-0 just minutes into the game and cruised to a 73-2 victory.

The story of the day was the Griz defense giving up no points and scoring four touchdowns of their own, setting a Big Sky Conference record with four interceptions returned for touchdowns.

Three of those pick sixes came in the first quarter as the team wasted no time demonstrating the speed and hands of their new look pressure defense.

Another bright spot for the Grizzlies was the excellent return game by Peter Nguyen who totalled over 200 yards on kick and punt returns.

Montana will face a tougher opponent next Saturday when they take to the road to face Cal Poly.

Meanwhile a pair of ex-Griz football stars have officially made the cut for their respective NFL teams.  Former Montana wide-receiver and Marc Mariani made the final Tennessee Titan roster yesterday.  The Havre native led the entire NFL in all-purpose yards during the preseason with 440.  His former teammate Shann Schillinger also made the cut with the Atlanta Falcons.





Gridiron Season Approaches

19 08 2010

August 18, 2010

It’s that time of year again, despite baseball season still being in full swing everybody is itching for football season.  I’m a self-proclaimed baseball nut but even I’m anxious for some pigskin action.

It’s been very encouraging to see success in the NFL preseason by players who were suiting up for the University of Montana just a year ago.  In his first game for the Titans (against Seattle on Sunday, August 15) Marc Mariani hauled in 3 catches for 21 yards, caught a 2-point conversion, and returned several punts and kicks… his spot on the roster = solidified.  Meanwhile Stephen Pfahler had a 16-yard reception himself for Tennessee.  Shann Schillinger also made headlines over with the Falcons, with a tackle and interception (returned 29 yards) in his first professional game.

As great as it is to see those guys continue their success… there remain several questions about the immediate future the current Montana Grizzly team will have.  I was at their first scrimmage of the season on Sunday.  The vigor of our young tailbacks such as Peter Nguyen and Jordan Canada was good to see.  Both ran hard and took several attempted tackles to bring down.  Obviously the starting job in the ground game is still Chase Reynolds without question but any and all offensive weapons are good to see.  On the defensive side, it was all about a sure-handed secondary of safeties grabbing four picks on the afternoon.  Returning starter Erik Stoll made a great interception along the sideline, Mike McCord had a 99-yard touchdown return on his pick (albeit an easy play on a terrible ball thrown by Chase Reynolds), and junior transfer Andrew Badger caught two interceptions himself (one if which he returned 17 yards for a score, brilliantly navigating through a slew of attempted tackles).

I have yet to place my faith on the passing game, the scrimmage saw lots of minimal success screens and dump-out passes… we’ll just have to wait until the season fires up to see if we have a chance to advance to a third straight national championship game under our new coach in Robin Plugrad.

Of course I haven’t given up on baseball by any degree… and the Missoula Osprey are looking the best they have since the season began.  The team sits just one game back of first-place Helena in the current 2nd half season standings, despite being two games under .500 at 7-9.  Adam Eaton continues to tear up the Pioneer League as he leads the league in hitting (.374), slugging (.563), on-base-percentage (.507), OPS (1.070) and even ranks second in steals with 17.  However if the team pitching doesn’t find it’s magic slipper soon it will remain an ugly pumpkin that will keep the O’s from finding a playoff berth (the team ranks last in ERA at 5.09).

On one light-hearted note, Kayla and I had a ton of fun doing a story on Matt Helm and Bobby Stone anchoring the corners of the infield… and doing so fashionably with a mullet each.  To view the story click here: Mullet Magic.





Summer Days

7 07 2010

July 6, 2010

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything I know… there’s no real excuse for the huge absence of over a month… although my computer was out of commission for the past several weeks.

Anyhow, I have been staying quite busy with the world of sports journalism.  As a whole the local sports world has cut-down tremendously with the end of the high school and collegiate sports seasons; however I have stayed busy with Legion Baseball, Missoula Osprey minor league baseball, as well as other odds and ends.

One of those more interesting odds and ends took place this past weekend as Missoula hosted this year’s 2010 U.S. Freestyle Kayaking National Championships.  I spent three days covering the event and had a great time.  The atmosphere of fans and participants was a unique glimpse of the world of alternate and Olympic sports.  The best kayakers in the nation competed at the event and I had the opportunity to meet and interview the entire Jackson family (Eric Jackson being a former world champion, daughter Emily Jackson being a defending national champion, and son Dane Jackson tearing it up over the weekend and qualifying for next year’s Kayaking World Cup in Germany in multiple events).  I learned the differences of freestyle moves such as the space godzilla, lunar orbit, air screw, mcnasty, and others.

In the more mainstream sporting world, the Missoula Osprey season is over a couple weeks underway.  I’ve had the pleasure to attend this past four game series, which the split against the Helena Brewers.  The team is off to a rocky start (6-10) but shows plenty of promise to turn it around.

I had the pleasure to interview two Osprey players today on their individual starts to the season as well as the team’s start.  They happened to be the pitcher-catcher brother combination of Robby and Richie Rowland.  Richie has had a hot bat with 3 home runs in his last four games along with a 13-game hit streak and a batting average of .451, tops in the Pioneer League.  Robby meanwhile had a strong outing on the mound Monday night, going 3 innings and giving up just one run on two hits.   The two were great guys to talk to and both were very optimistic about the team improving over the next few weeks… they’ll have their work cut out for them as they now embark on a 6-game road-trip against Billings and then Great Falls.