LCSC falls short of fifth straight title
HELENA, Mont. – The number 5 wasn’t kind to the Lewis-Clark State College women’s volleyball team on Saturday night because the Warriors fell in the fifth game against Rocky Mountain, which ended the Warriors run for a fifth straight Frontier Conference tournament title.
After winning two of the first three back-and-forth games, the Warriors lost the final two to fall to the Bears 26-28, 25-23, 24-26, 25-15, 15-11 in the championship game of the conference tournament.
The loss snapped a 15-match win streak for the Warriors, whose last lost was to this same Rocky Mountain team at home to start conference play nearly two months ago. Since that time, LCSC ran off 13 straight regular season conference wins to claim the conference title with a 13-1 mark. LCSC then swept Montana Tech in the opening round of the conference tournament on Friday and defeated Great Falls in four sets on Saturday morning before falling to RMC.
“The girls worked hard, but we just made too many errors,” LCSC coach LaToya Harris said. “We just have to capitalize and learn from this and take it over into nationals. Unfortunately we had to lose to learn, but Rocky played well.”
The win gives Rocky Mountain, ranked No. 9 in the NAIA, the conference’s automatic berth into the national tournament. LCSC, ranked No. 7, will advance as an at-large team, but will be watching the results of the final NAIA poll on Sunday morning anxiously because the top 11 ranked teams receive automatic byes into the pool play portion of the national tournament, along with the host team. The remaining 24 qualifiers will play first-round matches next Saturday at various sites around the country and the 12 winners will also advance to pool play.
Last year was the first year that LCSC received a bye into pool play. RMC is 27-4 on the season, while LCSC is 21-4. College of Idaho, which was ranked No. 8 behind LCSC, also lost its conference title match. If both fall out of the top 11, they could be paired in an opening round match.
The RMC-LCSC match was a defensive match. Neither team hit above .200 in the first three games and LCSC even was at .000 in the second game despite nearly winning it. Harris said the Warriors led late in the second game, but RMC was able to rally and pull out the game. “It’s unfortunate because we should have finished it,” Harris said.
Rocky came to life and hit .417 in the third game, while LCSC hit only .034 in the final game as the Bears rallied to claim the win.
“It was back and forth,” Harris said. “Everyone was feeding off everyone’s errors and then pushing for a few points. After a team committed an error, it seemed the other team would get three more off of kills or something that team did correctly. It basically just looked like the team that made the less errors would win.”
Senior middle blocker Nicole Graybeal had 18 kills and hit .350 to pace LCSC. She also had a match high seven block asses and three digs. Brianne Brown added 15 hits, 11 digs, five block assists and an assist, while Lauryn Herrick, who was named the conference’s Player of the Year earlier in the week, added 10 kills, nine digs, two block assists and a service ace. Chelsea Strong added nine kills, while Kelli Tikker added eight.
Harris credited Kaylee Rector and Tanja Luedin for playing well off the bench. Rector led LCSC with 32 digs and two service aces, while Luedin had five kills and six digs.
Harris said the third game seemed to take a lot out of the Warriors and RMC picked up its game.
“We fought hard to win the third game, but it looked like we were fatigued after that,” Harris said. “Nothing was falling and we weren’t connection. They pushed and we didn’t fight back. It just seemed everything went their way.”
In the fifth game, Harris said the Warriors just couldn’t make the key plays.
“We came out and had good runs, but we weren’t blocking,” Harris said. “They had some big kills and ran their offense well. Once we switched sides, we started pushing and utilizing our middle, which was the main thing we wanted to establish. But we didn’t do that until the end and it was too late.”
LCSC hit .138 for the match, while RMC hit .191. LCSC did outblock the Bears 16-12 and had 68 kills to 64 for Rocky. LCSC, however, had 38 attack errors to 26 for the Bears.
A box on the match can be found at