Warriors are edged by Northern for first league loss
HAVRE, Mont. – For the second time in as many days, the No. 24-ranked Lewis-Clark State College volleyball team pushed a Frontier Conference match into the fifth set. Thursday’s efforts resulted in a Warrior win over Great Falls, but that wasn’t the case on Friday as LCSC was topped by Montana State University-Northern 3-2.
In what was a battle between the top two teams in the conference standings, MSU-Northern (12-9 overall) won by a final score of 19-25, 25-23, 25-20, 14-25, 15-13.
Both teams now hold a share of first with conference records of 6-1.
“They (the Sky Lights) played amazing defense,” said LCSC head coach LaToya Harris. “We would go up and hit hard shots, but they just came alive on the defensive side.”
The Warriors (9-6) started the match on the right foot, but then let two close sets slip through their fingers. They failed to capitalize on a 9-5 lead in the second set, and then went on a 7-1 run late in the third only to see the rally fall short by five points.
“We had too many unforced errors in those two sets,” Harris said. “We were giving them more than three points sometimes at a time instead of siding out right away. We put ourselves in a tough position.”
The team came out with fire in the fourth and jumped to leads of 8-1, 14-4, and 23-11. Harris pointed to the play of junior setter Naomi Hernandez as the catalyst.
“Naomi came in and set the tempo and really established our middles. She got everyone involved.”
Hernandez finished with 24 assists as well as five kills. Brianne Brown was a recipient of many of the assists and finished with 16 kills and a hitting percentage of .270.
LCSC continued the attack in the final set, but Northern answered with defense. The Warriors built a 6-4 lead before sputtering down the stretch with six attack errors and one service error.
“We attacked harder and harder and harder and committed a few errors. Their defense was just amazing.”
Holly Cartwright led the Sky Lights with 24 digs, while Joni Nagy and Karyssa Bowron had 17 and 15, respectively. Kaylee Rector led LCSC with 20.
With both teams finishing with almost identical numbers (both had nine blocks apiece, LCSC led 83-82 in digs, and Northern hit .186 to LCSC’s .184) the difference really came down to scoring points at the right time.
“One thing I told our girls was to remember the feeling,” said Harris. “Remember the feeling so that you don’t want to ever feel it again.”
Nagy led the Sky Lights with 14 kills and a hitting mark of .419. Hillary Isleifson added 13 kills, and Abby Nicholas led the match with six blocks.
Along with Brown, Niurka Toribio and Keisha Luebbert-Kennedy also finished with double-digits in kills. Toribio had a team-high 17 to go with four service aces, and Luebbert-Kennedy had 12 kills, a .300 hitting clip, and a team-high five blocks.
Despite losing, LCSC had a 6-1 advantage in aces, and a 66-57 lead in kills.
Overall the Warriors went 1-1 on the road trip, and will return home next week to face Carroll College on Friday and then MSU-Northern again on Saturday.
“I’m very proud of them,” Harris said about her players. “One thing I can say from this trip is that we showed character and heart. They fought the most I’ve seen them fight all year, and that shows a lot of promise.”