Montana State head volleyball coach Daniel Jones has been in permagrin mode for the last week. And rightfully so.
Jones, in his fourth year at the helm of the Bobcat program, has steadily led Montana State back into the upper echelons of Big Sky Conference volleyball. A spot that the Bobcats haven’t been since the early 2000s.
Last fall, Jones led MSU to a 15-14 overall mark and a 10-8 Big Sky slate, good for fourth in the conference. The 15 victories were its most since the 2012 campaign, while its ten league wins was its best output since 2004. In addition, the Bobcats made its second straight Big Sky tournament appearance and won its first tournament match, knocking off Sacramento State, since the 2005 campaign.
Most of Montana State’s successes can be traced back to the last four recruiting classes. With Jones announcing his 2021-22 class last week, the talent pool continues to rise at Montana State, and Jones couldn’t be more ecstatic.
Included in the group is Audrey Hofer, a 5-8 setter from Helena, Mont., who guided the Bruins to their third straight Class AA state title, last Saturday. Hofer will enter MSU with numerous accolades, but none bigger than being named Under Armour First-Team All-America, last week.
Hofer is the first Under Armour First-Team player to sign with Montana State. The Bobcats inked second-team Under Armour All-American Kylie Edinger (Billings) for the 2009 season.
“It’s been an incredible experience over the past four years doing things that have not been done in the program for a long time or haven’t been done at all,” Jones said. “This recognition for Audrey Hofer as an incoming freshman on the Under Armour First-Team All-American squad, the first in our programs’ history, ranks right up there.”
Hofer is one of twenty-four high school seniors named to the squad. Nineteen of those players listed will be attending Power 5 schools, including two each to national powers Nebraska, Penn State, Stanford, and Kentucky. The five-remaining student-athletes will head to Creighton (2), San Diego, Princeton, and Montana State. Both Creighton and San Diego have been part of the national volleyball scene for years.
“If you look down the list of the commitments of the other 23 first team selections, she is in lofty company,” Jones commented. “It speaks volumes about who Audrey is as a person that she was basically unaware of how big a deal this is. She is a team first leader, who is selfless and always puts the ambitions of her team ahead of herself. When she won the Montana Gatorade Player of the Year award as a sophomore, again, something incredible, she just took it in stride, and never let it affect her. She has used her position of influence from these accolades to shine light on her teammates, coaches, and her community.”
Having Hofer named to the Under Armour team speaks volumes that the Bobcat program is on solid footing under Jones’ direction. Jones has Montana State in good position to lure top players to Bozeman. And he proved that with last week’s recruiting class.