GREAT FALLS, Mont. – With its back against the wall in a hostile road environment, the No. 24 Lewis-Clark State volleyball team got off the mat, earning a five-set victory over the University of Great Falls on Thursday night at the McLaughlin Center.
The Warriors (9-5 overall, 6-0 Frontier Conference) stormed back to win the final three sets after falling into a 2-0 hole against the Argos, who were up for the task in the second match of the season between the two teams.
The Argos (12-9 overall, 3-4 Frontier Conference) won the first two sets 27-25 and 25-22 before the Warriors rallied for 25-19 and 25-22 wins to tie the match.
LCSC swept Great Falls 25-23, 25-19, 25-18 in the first Frontier Conference match of the season for both schools on Sept. 7 at the Activity Center.
With their perfect conference record on the line, Warrior coach LaToya Harris laid it on the line for her team between the second and third sets.
“It was no time to be nice anymore. We needed to start playing hard instead of just doing O.K.,” Harris said. “We didn’t just want to win; we wanted to get a victory, and that meant fight and relentless play.”
With the Argos keying on LCSC outside hitters Treneisha Doyle (16 kills in the first matchup vs. UGF) and reigning Frontier Conference player of the week Niurka Toribio, the Warriors had to be balanced offensively.
“I’m very proud of the team in that everyone contributed,” Harris said. “We needed to utilize every person on the court. Great Falls played great defense and we had to make adjustments to their blocking.”
Toribio had 14 kills and hit .243 to lead the way for LCSC, but Doyle and Keisha Luebbert-Kennedy (11 kills each) and Brianne Brown (10 kills) were factors as well.
Doyle, Brown and Chelsea Strong had two kills apiece in the final set, with Doyle slamming down Nevena Dragovic’s 48th assist on match point.
Harris praised the defensive play of Kaylee Rector, Chelsea Shears and Mallorie Schoesler, giving the Warrior hitters free rein to focus on attacking.
“Once we controlled the back row, things opened up for us,” she said. “Mallorie did a great job of covering our right back defense, and we needed that four our hitters to be able to swing.”
The unforced errors that have plagued the Warriors in recent matches bubbled up again in the first two sets, but Lewis-Clark State kept things under control in the late rally.
“When we started out we gave them too many points, and they were fired up in their home gym. It really echoes in there and you can hardly hear yourself,” Harris said. “But it came down to us relaxing and not trying too hard. We had faith in each other to do our jobs. We improved tremendously from the first two sets.”
The Warriors will aim to continue their perfect start to conference play when they continue their road trip at MSU-Northern on Friday night.
The Skylights swept Montana Tech on Thursday.
The ball goes up at 7 p.m. Pacific time.